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Africa makes progress against malaria

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 – Substantial investment in malaria control has helped fuel major progress in the drive to roll back the disease across Africa but more funding is needed, according to a report released this week.

"Progress in Africa is on an upward and accelerated trajectory," according to "The World Malaria Day 2010: Africa Update," a joint report by the UN Children\’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.

It notably pointed to a ten-fold hike in global malaria funding from external sources to roughly two billion dollars by the end of 2009 compared with 2004 and a five-fold increase in global production of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) to 150 million.

But the study said external aid in malaria funding "still falls short of the estimated six billion dollars needed in 2010 alone for global implementation of malaria interventions."

The vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, south of the Sahara and the disease has been estimated to cost the continent more than 12 billion dollars every year in lost gross domestic product (GDP), even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum.

"Investment in malaria control is saving lives and reaping far-reaching benefits for countries. But without sustained and predictable funding, the significant contribution of malaria control toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be reversed," said Dr Coll Seck, RBM Partnership executive director.

"More remains to be done as children and pregnant women are still dying of this preventable and treatable disease, especially in Africa," said outgoing UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman.

RBM, a public-private partnership founded by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the UN Development Agency, provides policy guidance as well as financial and technical backing for control efforts in malaria-hit countries.

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Malaria control, key to achieving many of the poverty-reduction MDGs by the 2015 deadline, relies on prevention through the use of ITNs and indoor residual spraying as well as intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy through the use of at least two doses of an effective antimalarial drug during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Recommended treatment involves the use of Artemisinin-based combination therapy.

With the "Decade to Roll Back Malaria" set to close by year\’s end, the report said Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea\’s Bioko island, Gambia, Ghana, Zambia, the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar and Sao Tome and Principe "have scaled up malaria interventions and have observed marked reduction (30-95 percent) in morbidity and mortality indicators."

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