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Malaria killing a million a year

The prevention and treatment of malaria has made progress since 2000, but an annual death toll of 1 million people presents challenges as the mosquito-borne parasitic disease makes a comeback, the first joint malaria report from the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says.

The report on the disease that claims three times as many African children's lives as HIV/AIDS was launched today at events in New York, Geneva and Cairo.

"This is just my second day at UNICEF, but it makes sense that my first public statement helps make the case for fighting a largely preventable and utterly treatable disease," Executive-Director Ann Veneman said in New York. "It is a disease that kills one child in sub-Saharan Africa every 30 seconds. The numbers are astounding -- and unacceptable."

Insecticide-treated bed nets and new artemisinin-based combination therapies must reach many more people, but "many countries are moving forward with malaria control programmes and even those with limited resources and a heavy malaria burden now have a better opportunity to gain ground against this disease," WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said in Geneva.

The report estimates that 350 million to 500 million people worldwide contract malaria per year, up somewhat from the estimate of 300 million to 500 million cases annually that WHO has been using since 2001.

"Current methods do not allow for a more precise estimate, given that malaria is most often not diagnosed with certainty, as well as the scarcity of reliable data from the communities where it occurs," WHO and UNICEF say.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets agreed at a UN summit in 2000 to halve or eliminate many socio-economic ills, would halt or reverse the spread by 2015, while WHO's Roll Back Malaria partnership, founded in 1998, aims to halve the burden by 2010, despite a serious lack of funds.

Only $600 million was contributed to global malaria control this year, when $3.2 billion was needed to fight the disease effectively in the 82 countries with the worst burdens, the agencies say.

Nonetheless, in the last three years, the number of insecticide-treated bed nets distributed across Africa had increased 10-fold.

"Money is not the whole answer. Many developing countries, African countries in particular, need to strengthen their health systems and there is an urgent need for greater investment in research," Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Roll Back Malaria chief since 2003, said in New York.

"We are pleased by the recent surge in funding for vaccine research, but strong research initiatives are needed for developing new medicines and safe, new insecticides."


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Source:United Nations


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