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UN envoy calls for collaborative approach to accelerate fight against malaria

Insecticide-treated bed nets are crucial in the fight against malaria.
IRIN/Wendy Stone
Insecticide-treated bed nets are crucial in the fight against malaria.

UN envoy calls for collaborative approach to accelerate fight against malaria

An increase in collaboration and partnerships among donor and recipient countries must occur to boost efforts to prevent and treat malaria, a United Nations envoy stressed today, while also calling for an increase in funding to combat the deadly disease.

Addressing the media at press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, said that although malaria deaths have declined significantly in recent years, there is still much to be done to reach the target of zero deaths by 2015, and countries would need to increase their coordination in addressing the issue.

“We now have the challenge of having to raise around $3.2 billion to get us to the point of having a change to be at near-zero deaths by 2015,” Mr. Chambers said, adding that the funding is needed to renew bed nets which generally wear out after three years, as well as to make medication and rapid diagnosis available to the population.

Malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, kills more than 650,000 people around the world every year, with most of the deaths occurring in Africa.

The press conference came ahead of World Malaria Day, which is observed every year on 25 April. The theme for this year’s observance is “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” and it aims to emphasize the need to maintain the momentum that has caused the disease to shrink over the last decade and increase investment to help reach universal targets.

According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December last year, the number of deaths due to malaria declined by more than 25 per cent in the past decade, with a 33 per cent reduction in mortality rates in Africa.

Mr. Chambers said he was optimistic about eliminating the disease as there had been a lot of progress to date, as well as innovation in developing rapid diagnostic tools and more effective medications. He also noted there would be a new vaccine by 2015 that could be 50 per cent more effective than current ones. However, he underscored the crucial role of funding to continue the work on the ground.

As part of the events planned around World Malaria Day, the UN will host a reception on Monday evening, bringing together partners from the health, development, entertainment and private sectors.

The so-called NETworking reception, which was organized by the Roll Back Malaria partnership, Mr. Chambers, the UN Foundation and Variety Magazine, will seek to strengthen partnerships and initiatives to fight malaria, and recognize those who have helped raise awareness about the disease.

Among the guests will be former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal from the United States, and Princess Astrid of Belgium, who is also a Special Representative to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and will be presented an award by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for her work in the fight against malaria.