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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Africa marks war on malaria
Malaria infects more than 300 million people a year
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By Corinne Podger
BBC Science Correspondent
The African continent is observing its second Africa Malaria Day - a chance to assess progress in controlling and treating the disease.

This year, the event is taking the theme of community - recognising the vital role of health workers, schools and families, on the front-line of the battle against this deadly tropical disease.

Malaria in Africa
900,000 Africans die every year
Malaria spreading to new areas
Cheapest drug - chloroquine - becoming less effective
Refugees at particular risk
Malaria infects more than 300 million people a year, and causes more than a million deaths.

Ninety per cent of those deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of them involving children.

Despite years of research, a vaccine to prevent the disease still eludes researchers. And the death toll is expected to rise as the parasite which causes malaria becomes increasingly resistant to older drugs, like chloroquine.

New approaches

In recent years, several large-scale initiatives have been set up to tackle malaria.

One is the Medicines for Malaria Venture, or MMV. A partnership between drug companies and health agencies, MMV hopes to produce a new anti-malarial drug every five years, to replace older, less effective ones.

Anti-malaria drugs
New anti-malaria drugs are needed
Another venture is Roll-Back Malaria - a partnership between the World Health Organisation, the UN, and governments and drug firms in industrial and developing countries. It is aiming to halve the global burden of the disease by 2010.

David Alnwick, who heads the project, says progress in finding new drugs and controlling infection rates has been slow, and funding remains inadequate.

In some countries, he says malaria epidemics have actually become worse in the four years since RollBack Malaria was set up.

Until the new drugs - or indeed, a vaccine - are developed, he says attention is being concentrated on protective measures, such as mosquito nets treated with insecticide, and developing better emergency responses to outbreaks.

See also:

23 May 01 | Health
Africa to get cheap malaria drug
16 May 01 | Health
Premature puberty link to DDT
22 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Ban agreed on toxic chemicals
13 Jun 01 | South Asia
Deadly malaria strain in India
07 Jun 01 | Health
Cattle used to fight malaria
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