The first ever "Africa Malaria Day" was marked widely today as the United Nations and its partners used the occasion to inform communities about malaria prevention and treatment and to mobilize action against a disease that kills over a million people a year, with nine tenths of the victims in Africa and most under the age of five.
In addition to a spate of activities across the continent, a global event was organized by the Nigerian Government in Abuja, where on this day last year, 38 representatives of African States committed themselves to reducing the human and socio-economic costs of malaria. They vowed to take action to ensure that by 2005, at least 60 per cent of those suffering have affordable treatment within 24 hours, that at least 60 per cent of pregnant women and children benefit from insecticide-treated bed nets, and that at least 60 per cent of all pregnant women who are at risk of malaria have access to treatment.
According to "Roll Back Malaria" -- a global partnership involving the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank, as well as political leaders and ordinary citizens from malaria-ridden countries -- Africa Malaria Day is an occasion to remember that the disease is preventable and treatable. Today's event also aims to take stock of progress made on the continent in tackling one of the largest public health and development problems.
In conjunction with the Day, a new study on African governments' progress towards combating malaria reported today that to date, five African countries - Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - have changed their policies and reduced or abolished taxes and tariffs to help lower the price of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs). The nets are considered one of the most effective prevention measures for malaria. If properly used, they can reduce the risk of transmission by as much as 63 per cent.
At the same time, the report, which was commissioned by the Roll Back Malaria partnership and compiled by Boston University, emphasized that more needs to be done to make the nets affordable to the poorest sectors of all Africa societies.