Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Tuesday, 3 May 2005 17:15 UK

'Too early' for malaria verdict

It is "too soon" to say if an international initiative to combat malaria has had an impact, its leaders say.

Roll Back Malaria, an international group of 90 organisations, was set up in 1998 to tackle malaria.

It says more people now have access to preventative measures such as mosquito nets and the newest malaria medicines.

But it says it is too early to say if deaths from malaria, which kills one million people each year, will fall.

If we are going to dramatically reduce child deaths in the next decade, we need to put more focus on combating malaria
Ann Veneman, Unicef
The report from RBM says it will be about three years before the effect of the initiatives becomes clear.

The report says that in 2003, between 350 and 500 million people worldwide became ill with malaria.

The report from Roll Back Malaria says the fact more people have access to ways of preventing and treating the disease means there is hope that the number who become ill will start to decline.

Funding plea

Dr Jong-wook Lee, director-general of WHO, one of the partners in Roll Back Malaria, said: "Many countries are moving forward with malaria control programmes, and even those with limited resources and a heavy malaria burden now have a better opportunity to gain ground against this disease.

"However, proven interventions, such as insecticide-treated nets and the latest artemisinin-based combination therapies, must reach many more people before we can have a real impact on malaria."

The report said that the difficulties involved in obtaining accurate data from affected countries, and the fact that efforts to tackle the condition only gathered pace recently, meant it was too soon to say if these developments had had an effect.

The report says much more money is needed for the Roll Back Malaria partnership to achieve its goals.

It says US$3.2bn per year is needed to combat malaria effectively in the 82 countries which are worst affected.

But this year, just US$600m was made available for global malaria control.

The World Bank also recently announced it would commit up to US$1bn over the next five years to help people gain access to essential malaria prevention and treatment.

Criticisms

Ann Veneman, executive director of Unicef, 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.

"If we are going to dramatically reduce child deaths in the next decade, we need to put more focus on combating malaria."

The Roll Back Malaria initiative was recently criticised in an editorial in the respected Lancet medical journal, which said the RBM's "loose association" structure had meant it had been unable to build on the declaration.

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

It its editorial, 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."



SEE ALSO
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08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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