Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Many nations to eliminate malaria


Malaria is a parasitic disease that involves high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia.

Nearly a third of all countries affected by malaria are on course to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease over the next 10 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.

Up to a third of the 108 countries and territories across the world where malaria is endemic are moving toward being able to wipe out the disease within their borders.

Almost half the world's population -- or 3.3 billion people -- are at risk of malaria and the parasitic disease killed 781,000 people in 2009, according to the latest data. Most of its victims are in Africa.

Malaria elimination -- halting the disease's transmission and reducing infections to zero within a defined area -- was first attempted on a large scale during the Global Malaria Eradication Program from 1955 to 1972.

During that time, 20 countries were certified by WHO as malaria-free. But that number dropped to just four countries during the following 30 years when efforts to control the spread of the disease lapsed.

Monday's report said seven countries had recently eliminated malaria and were working to prevent re-introduction, another 10 countries were monitoring transmission to get down to zero malaria cases, and a further nine were "preparing to move toward nationwide elimination of malaria."

"The extraordinary commitment, the ... financing, and the coordination of efforts to realize malaria targets over the last ten years have resulted in a situation today where we could see 10 more countries reaching a malaria-free status in a relatively short time.


RBM said in a report in September that a rapid scale-up of a range of malaria control measures -- such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying, faster and more accurate diagnosis and access to anti-malaria drugs -- has saved an estimated 1.1 million lives in Africa over the past 10 years.

International funding for the fight against malaria has also risen substantially in recent years, reaching about $1.5 billion in 2010, up from $100 million in 2003.

David Brandling-Bennett, deputy director for malaria at the Gates Foundation, which was hosting the Seattle conference, said it was vital for global health authorities, donors and national governments not to take their eye off the ball.

The Malaria Forum is hosted and funded by the Gates Foundation, a $34 billion fund run by the billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The foundation is devoted largely to health projects in poor countries.

In 2007, Gates and his wife Melinda urged the international community to fight for the global eradication of malaria, saying that to aspire to anything less would be "timid."

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