Zambia has joined several other African countries in slashing the number of deaths from malaria by more than half through aggressive control measures, the United Nations health agency announced today.
The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that largely thanks to a huge increase in the distribution of mosquito nets over two years, malaria mortality rates in Zambia have been cut by 66 per cent, surpassing its 2010 Roll Back Malaria target of more than 50 per cent.
“This is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Ministry of Health of Zambia and its partners to combat malaria,” said Luís Gomes Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“As we celebrate World Malaria Day this week, I urge all countries affected by malaria to intensify and sustain malaria control and elimination efforts in order to meet the 2010 goal of 100 per cent coverage,” he added.
Between 2006 and 2008 some 3.6 million long-lasting insecticidal nets were handed out in the southern African nation, coinciding with a 47 per cent decline in malaria deaths during the same period.
In addition, WHO highlighted nationwide surveys showing the prevalence in parasites dropped by 53 per cent and the percentage of children with severe anemia – mostly caused by malaria – fell by 68 per cent.
Zambia started its accelerated malaria control campaign in 2003 when approximately 500,000 insecticide-treated nets were distributed and artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) started in seven pilot districts through a grant from the UN-backed Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
From 2006 to 2007, large numbers of insecticide-treated nets and ACT were distributed to the general population – not just children and pregnant women who were the initial beneficiaries of the campaign – and indoor residual spraying (IRS) was taking place in 15 of 72 districts in Zambia.
“The Global Fund is pleased to see proof that malaria control resources provided by the Ministry of Health, the Global Fund, and other partners are resulting in a dramatic reduction of preventable deaths,” said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund, which provides two thirds of all resources for malaria control worldwide.
“Zambia stands as an example of what we can achieve throughout Africa through the combination of universal access to bed nets and effective malaria medicines,” he added.
In related news, a gathering of African and United States faith leaders, policy makers and other high-level global health campaigners will join UN Malaria Envoy Ray Chambers tomorrow in Washington to launch the One World Against Malaria Campaign.
The initiative, launched on the eve of World Malaria Day, aims to harness interfaith cooperation at the local level to put an end to the deaths of around 3,000 children a day from malaria in Africa.