UN chief calls for greater efforts to eradicate malaria on international day

25 April 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the international community to redouble its efforts to ensure that every person at risk of catching malaria has access to a mosquito net by 2010, in a message marking World Malaria Day.

Although more than 40 per cent of people in danger of dying from the disease now have mosquito nets and malaria deaths have been slashed by two-thirds, there is much more work to do in providing access to key malaria prevention tools and treatment to those suffering from the disease, stressed Mr. Ban.

“If we can maintain current levels of progress, by 2015 there could be nearly zero preventable deaths from malaria,” noted the Secretary-General. “In this time of economic crisis, we must protect investments in global health and not allow this disease to resurge.”

According to a new UN Children''s Fund (UNICEF) report, progress has been made in combating malaria, particularly in Africa, where the disease in most prevalent.

“We are for the first time in history poised to make malaria a rare cause of death and disability,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “The report shows that endemic African countries received enough nets during 2004-2008 to cover more than 40 per cent of their at-risk populations.”

Since 2004 the number of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) produced worldwide has more than tripled, from 30 million to 100 million in 2008, the Malaria and Children, Progress in Intervention Coverage report noted.

“However, every year, this disease still kills an estimated one million people, most of them children in Africa,” said Ms. Veneman. “Malaria also affects around 50 million pregnant women annually, contributing to maternal anaemia, low birth weight babies and even maternal death.”

Strengthening effective interventions has led to cuts in the number of people contracting and dying from malaria in Eritrea, Rwanda, Zambia and Madagascar among others, which has the added benefit of lowering the burden on over-stretched hospitals and clinics, and having fewer absentees in the workplace and schools.

The report - a joint effort with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – shows financing is now available to purchase enough nets to put Africa well on the way to achieving universal coverage by 2010.

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