- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

GENEVA — The world is making inroads in fighting malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued Tuesday.

Malaria kills more than 1 million people per year and affects up to 500 million worldwide. About 60 percent of the cases and more than 80 percent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, said “World Malaria Report 2005.”

Malaria is caused by a mosquito-borne parasite that infects humans when it enters the bloodstream. The most common of the four species in sub-Saharan Africa is Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for 18 percent of deaths in children younger than 5, the report said.

“At present, malaria remains the infectious disease that takes more lives of children in Africa than any other — three times as many as HIV infection,” said Ann M. Veneman, executive director of UNICEF. But even in Africa, the global rollback campaign against malaria begun in 1998 is reducing transmission.

“Many countries are moving forward with malaria-control programs, and even those with limited resources and a heavy malaria burden now have a better opportunity to gain ground against this disease,” said Dr. Lee Jong-wook, WHO director-general.

Malaria was largely ignored until recently and a “lot of things have been done” in the past five years, said Dr. Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive secretary of the Global Rollback Malaria Partnership.

Dr. Coll-Seck, Senegal’s former health minister, said about $3.2 billion is needed for “a real impact in combating malaria” worldwide. Of this, about $1.9 billion is needed for Africa and $1.2 billion is needed elsewhere, the report estimates. The amount earmarked for this year is $600 million.

Since 1998, the number of malaria cases has declined by 20 percent in Asia and the Americas, partly because of an increased use of insecticide-treated sleeping or bed nets, the report said.

More than 100 countries and territories are at risk of malaria transmission, the report said.

Increased availability of up-to-date drugs, better-trained health staff and purchases of insecticide-treated nets are part of the strategy to halve the burden of Malaria worldwide by 2010.

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