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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
'Little progress' in malaria war
Mosquito
The malaria parasite is carried by mosquitoes
Little progress has been made in the war on malaria because the global body launched to fight the disease in 1998 is failing, a medical journal says.

Roll Back Malaria, an international group of 90 organisations, was set up to co-ordinate the response to malaria.

But the Lancet said the number of cases was rising - there are now an estimated 500 million cases a year - and a vaccine was 10 years away.

RBM said while it hoped more would have been achieved, progress was being made.

The Lancet, in a special malaria issue, praised the partnership for bringing malaria to the world's attention, including the promise made as part of the Abuja Declaration in 2000 to halve the burden of the disease within 10 years.

But the journal said RBM's "loose association" structure had meant it had been unable to build on the declaration.

'Poor advice'

Advice had been poor and the division of responsibility among the partners, which includes African countries, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, was not clear, the journal said.

It said cases of the infectious disease were on the rise, with nearly 50% more cases than at the time of the Abuja Declaration.

In a comment piece, the Lancet said: "Five years on from the Abuja Summit, it is clear that not only has RBM failed in its aims but it may also have caused harm."

Huge strides have been made and I think the partnership has saved lives
Roll Back Malaria spokeswoman
The issue also contains evidence about how the infectious disease, which is carried by mosquitoes, is becoming drug resistant.

The parasite responsible for the most severe form of malaria has become resistant to the drug chloroquine in nearly all areas where the disease is rife - 90% of cases are in Africa.

A study of 1,800 children in Tanzania found a combination of two drugs - artemether and lumefantrine - was the most effective way to treat the disease in such cases.

But Theonest Mutabingwa, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, said: "The cost of the drug means that it is likely to reach only a fraction of those who need it."

'Progress'

And colleagues at the school also predicted it would be 10 years before a vaccine came on to the market.

While research had progressed rapidly in recent years, vaccines currently being tested only offered 30% protection.

A spokeswoman for the RBM said she disputed the claim that malaria was rising.

"We have always said there are between 350 million and 500 million cases, so the upper limit is still the same," she said.

"Of course we would have liked to have seen more progress but that cannot always be the case.

"Huge strides have been made and I think the partnership has saved lives. If it wasn't for the work we have done, the malaria rate would have been higher."

A lack of attention and funds for tackling malaria in Africa is undermining efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, announced the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), on Africa Malaria Day.

Chris White, of the African Medical and Research Foundation, said a lack of attention and funds for tackling malaria in Africa was undermining efforts.

"The HIV/Aids disaster has eclipsed Africa's silent killer - malaria. And while we, of course, applaud the world's focus and funding for HIV/Aids projects, we would also remind the international community not to forget about malaria, which costs so little to prevent."


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