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A View from Rwanda: Congressional Briefing Highlights Impact of U.S. funded Anti-Malaria Programs

Rwandan Health Ministry Official shows programs funded by the Global Fund and President's Malaria Initiative help Rwanda reduce malaria deaths by more than 60 percent.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) April 23, 2009 -- At a Congressional briefing held today in advance of World Malaria Day, speakers discussed the current state of malaria in Rwanda and how the country reduced deaths due to the disease by more than 60 percent. The briefing highlighted the crucial role of political commitment of Rwandan leaders, partnerships, community engagement, and U.S. support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the U.S. Malaria Programs in making this success possible.

"Over the course of the last several years, Rwanda has reduced the number of children hospitalized due to malaria by more than 60 percent. Through action and partnership, Rwanda has shown that success is truly achievable against malaria," said Dr. Corine Karema, Director of Rwanda's National Malaria Control Program (through TRACPLUS). "We have proven in Rwanda that we can dramatically increase the number of lives saved through funding and implementing programs in malarial countries. Now, we must recognize the opportunity facing not just Rwanda, but the world: for the first time in the history of this disease, we have an opportunity to eliminate the burden of malaria to a point where it is no longer considered a major public health problem. We must keep up the fight to ensure that this promise can become a reality."

The briefing, sponsored by the Global Health Council, Population Services International (PSI), and the Johns Hopkins University Global Program on Malaria, featured Rwandan Ambassador to the United States H.E. Eng. James Kimonyo, UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers; Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Malaria Programs coordinator; Dr. Corine Karema, National Malaria Control Program Coordinator for Rwanda; and Staci Leuschner, PSI/Rwanda country representative. Matthew Lynch, director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Global Program on Malaria and vice chair of the Roll Back Malaria partnership, moderated the panel. The presentations at the event focused on a first-hand account of the progress the country and its partners have made against the disease and how it can serve as an example for other endemic countries.

In Rwanda the entire population is at risk for malaria. Yet, between 2001 and 2005, only a few hundred thousand insecticide-treated bednets were distributed to protect people against mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite, producing a negligible impact. Starting in 2006, the government of Rwanda aggressively increased its malaria intervention programs and distributed more 1.5 million malaria nets in one week. An additional 1.6 million were distributed by non-government organizations (NGOs). Now, roughly 60 percent of children under five and pregnant women in Rwanda sleep under malaria nets.

"Rwanda is a true success story and example of what can be done with the commitment of national leadership," said Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) Coordinator. "We look forward to continuing work in countries like Rwanda to put the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) into practice. The GMAP will help us build on these kinds of positive results by increasing our efforts in coordination with host countries, donors, NGOs, and other partners to help assure the best return on resources invested. This integrated anti-malaria strategy is the best way to take on the long-term goal of malaria elimination."

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