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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Malaria nets 'could save thousands'
Health worker attends to a child with malaria in Africa
3,000 African children die of malaria each day
Simple nets could help reduce the human toll of malaria across Africa, campaigners say.

The disease kills at least a million people every year - and kills a child in Africa every thirty seconds.

Ninety per cent of deaths from malaria occur in the sub-Saharan area of Africa.

The World Health Organization and Unicef have published a report, launched in Kenya on Friday to mark Africa Malaria Day by President Mwai Kibaki, urging more global investment for work to prevent and treat malaria.

A conference to mark the day was also held in London to highlight the need for action.

Fewer than 3% of children at risk of malaria are protected by the highly effective insecticide protected nets.

The WHO and Unicef are also calling for newer, more effective, combination drug therapies to be made more widely available across Africa.

MALARIA IN AFRICA
Up to 3,000 children die each day
Some one million people die each year
Number of cases has quadrupled in 20 years
The humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has backed the call for the provision of new anti-malarial treatments, as traditional drugs are failing because of growing resistance to them.

MSF said the failure to fund the combination drug treatment showed an emphasis on saving money rather than saving lives.

The WHO and Unicef said prompt treatment of malaria, plus proper use of the nets could reduce malaria transmission by up to 60% and death rates in young children by around a fifth.

International lobby group, Massive Effort, say African governments should eliminate all sales taxes on malaria bed nets which can stop mosquitoes.

Good sanitation and running water also helps tackle malaria because the mosquitoes which carry the parasite then have nowhere to breed.

The United Nations has raised $200m for its latest malaria eradication campaign, but says it needs a billion dollars every year.

Resistance

Malaria cases are on the increase, with around four times the number of cases in the 1990s compared to the 1970s and two to three times the number of deaths in hospital.

In large part, this is due to high levels of resistance to the drugs chloroquin and sulphadoxine-pyrithemaine (SP).

By 1999, Tanzania had resistance rates ranging from 28 to 97%, in Kenya from 66 to 87% and from 10 to 80% in Uganda.

MSF is calling on donor agencies, such as the UK Department for International Development and the US Agency for International Development to plough more money into malarial treatment in Africa.

It wants them to fund the introduction of ACT - artemisinin-based combination therapy, which has been recommended by the WHO.

Lots of this is preventable and we could do massively better
Clare Short, UK International Development Secretary

Using artemisinin drugs, derived from the Chinese plant Artemisia annua in combination with other drugs such as amodiaquine can eradicate malaria symptoms in three days.

The drugs cost $1 to $3, compared to chloroquin which costs around 10 cents.

ACT has been introduced in some African countries, including the KwaZulu Natal province, where there was an 80% reduction in hospital deaths from malaria when ACT was introduced.

Other countries want to follow WHO guidance and introduce the therapy, but cannot afford to.

Pregnant women

Commenting on the WHO/Unicef report, UK International Development Secretary Clare Short said: "Malaria causes more ill-health and loss of life in Africa than any other disease or cause of ill health, and particularly affects children and pregnant women.

Mosquito
Mosquito borne malaria can be reduced by insecticide-treated nets
"The thing that's worst of all about it is that lots of this is preventable and we could do massively better."

Carol Bellamy, executive director of Unicef, said: "Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds, and remains one of the most important threats to the health of pregnant women and their newborns.

"We have the knowledge and the potential to achieve our target of reducing the global burden of malaria by half by 2010, but we need much greater investment and political commitment."

Dr Nick White, professor of tropical medicine at Mahidol University, Thailand and Oxford University said: "What would you rather do - waste money on old cheap drugs that you know don't work or fund a more expensive treatment that will save lives?"

Dr Bernard Pecoul, director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, added: "Since 2001, WHO experts have recommended replacing failing malaria medicines with more effective treatments, but donors have failed to encourage this change, choosing to save money rather than lives."




SEE ALSO:
Malaria treatment 'breakthrough'
22 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Success in malaria drug tests
13 Dec 02  |  Health
Malaria
08 Feb 03  |  Medical notes


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