World

Anti-malaria campaign cuts deaths by 38%

The global campaign to fight malaria reported achievements in reducing death and suffering from the mosquito-borne disease by 38 per cent Tuesday and restated its goal of eliminating nearly all malaria deaths by 2015.
A new report estimates that in the last five year the lives of 1.1 million children under the age of five were saved in sub-Saharan Africa. (Katrina Manson/Reuters)

The global campaign to fight malaria reported achievements in reducing death from the mosquito-borne disease by 38 per cent  and restated its goal of eliminating nearly all malaria deaths by 2015.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership estimated that the total number of malaria deaths fell 38 per cent worldwide as a result of stepped up use of anti-malaria bed nets, spraying and drugs over the last decade.

As a result, it estimates the lives of 1.1 million children under the age of five were saved in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in the last five years.

"Malaria is on the retreat across the globe," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a news conference launching the report. 

The report said malaria cases have been reduced by 50 per cent or more in 43 countries, including 11 in Africa.

Malaria killed almost 800,000 people in 2009, over 90 per cent of those in Africa and primarily young children and pregnant women. It estimated the cost to the continent in lost productivity at $12 billion annually.

Professor Awa Maria Coll-Seck, the campaign's executive director, said the "successful results of the past decade mean we can now raise the bar.

"We aim to reduce malaria deaths to near zero by 2015 in all endemic countries," she said.

The same goal was announced in 2008, when the partnership launched a $3 billion plan to reduce the malaria deaths within what was then seven years. In a kickoff event that included Microsoft founder Bill Gates, U2 frontman Bono and heads of state, the partnership pledged to provide better access to bed nets, indoor spraying, improved diagnosis and treatment, preventative measures for pregnant women and development of new vaccines.

Coll-Seck said Tuesday that by 2015 "some countries will achieve what we are asking for" and others won't but without the target "we will not accelerate the work ... their effort will not be stronger and stronger."

"We want to mobilize everybody to ensure that we will not be far from this target," she said.

According to the report, Europe is on track to eliminate malaria by 2015. The World Health Organization has certified three countries as malaria free -- Morocco, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates -- and 26 countries are in various stages of eliminating malaria.

"What we need to fight malaria every year is around $5-6 billion," Coll-Seck said, as well as political leadership and national support.  

She said that in just two years Nigeria has been able to distribute 40 million bed nets as a result of financial support.

"Now more than ever, we have good reason to continue investing in malaria control: A malaria-free world is possible for the new generation," Coll-Seck said.

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership was founded in 1998 by the U.N. children's, health and development agencies and the World Bank and has more than 500 partner organizations from the public and private sector.