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USAID Recognizes World Malaria Day

WASHINGTON, April 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement from U.S. Malaria Coordinator, Admiral Tim Ziemer on World Malaria Day:

Across Africa, young boys and girls wake up each morning just like children here in the Washington D.C. area. The children are no different; they do chores, eat, play sports, and go to school. That is, if they can survive the mosquito bites that transmit the deadly malaria parasites. Those parasites kill an estimated 3,000 children each day in Africa.

While malaria has been all but forgotten in the United States, it remains the leading cause of death for children under 5 in Africa, killing approximately 1 million people a year.

Malaria is often referred to as a disease of poverty as it mostly afflicts those who are least able to afford prevention and treatment services. Economic losses due to malaria in Africa are estimated to be about US$12 billion per year. Men and women are kept from work, children from school, and many families are forced to use much of their modest discretionary income to pay for expensive malaria treatments.

Each year on April 25 the world recognizes World Malaria Day to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. I hope that soon we can celebrate the elimination of malaria as a major public health threat.

On behalf of the American people, the U.S. government has taken extraordinary steps to curb the spread of this preventable and curable disease. In 2005, $1.2 billion was committed with the goal of reducing malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 of the most malaria endemic countries in Africa. In addition to a dramatic increase in funding, there was a very focused and clear commitment to contribute to expanding coverage of highly effective malaria prevention and treatment interventions to 85 percent of the most vulnerable populations -- children under 5 and pregnant women.

The President's Malaria Initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with host countries to ramp up comprehensive control efforts.

Just during the past year, the United States reached more than 32 million people with malaria prevention or treatment measures.

Widespread distribution of mosquito nets that prevent mosquitoes from biting their intended victims, new and effective drugs to treat malaria, medicines that protect pregnant women and their unborn babies, and spraying insecticides on the inside walls of homes to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease are all sharply reducing malaria deaths in several African countries. These efforts are bringing newfound hope that malaria is not an intractable problem, and giving children a fighting chance to improve their quality of life and build better futures.

Progress has been dramatic thanks to major contributions from our partners, including host country governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund), the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and private sector companies, such as Exxon-Mobil, and NGOs like Malaria No More.

In Rwanda, Zambia, and Zanzibar we are beginning to see signs of major reductions in the proportion of people infected with malaria. At the same time in Rwanda and Zambia, there has been a striking reduction in deaths among children under the age of 5. Regional and district-level impact has also been reported from Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. Malaria is beginning to be rolled back, setting the stage for big gains in the next few years.

We also are focusing on building capacity within host countries by training people to manage, deliver, and support the delivery of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against infectious diseases.

To be successful, we must involve community, volunteer, and private sector organizations in malaria control activities at national, district and community levels. Partnerships with faith-based and community organizations are essential because of the credibility these groups have within their communities, their ability to reach the grassroots level, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. In the 15 focus countries in Africa, the United States has supported more than 150 nonprofit organizations, over 40 of which are faith based.

On Malaria Day, we strengthen our commitment to rid Africa of malaria by expanding proven approaches and interventions until they reach each and every child and pregnant woman who needs them. The prize in reducing the intolerable burden of malaria in Africa will be not only be healthier mothers and children, but also a chance for the poorest of the poor to benefit from greater socioeconomic development.

Public Information: 202-712-4810

SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development
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