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From Pan African News Agency, through Africa News - Original

HEADLINE:

400 Million Cases Of Malaria Are Reported Every Year

BYLINE: Panafrican News Agency

DATELINE: June 5, 2000

BYLINE: Stephen Mbogo In Nairobi All Africa News Agency

Nairobi - Some 400 million cases of malaria are reported annually around the world. According to World Health Organisation WHO statistics, at least one million people die of malaria every year. (See detailed focus on Malaria on AANA Bulletin No 19/99 of May 17,1999 pages 6,7 and 8)

In Africa, more than 550 million people, almost the entire population estimated at just above 700 million people, is now at risk of contracting malaria. In sub-Sahara Africa, malaria causes more than one million deaths every year, most of the victims being children aged below five years. Its occurrence is 90 percent in Africa alone.

It is against this backdrop that efforts are increasingly being directed at rolling back malaria especially in Africa where the disease has left a trail of social and economic destruction.

"The social and economical consequences of malaria in our region are very grave. It is a major contributory factor to poverty, it keeps many adults from work and many children away from school. It affects the poor primarily thereby exacerbating inequities in health and impeding development," says Dr Ebrahim Samba, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Recently, heads of government from Africa, leaders of the industrialised countries (G8) and various international development agencies gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, to deliberate on the issue of malaria.

The main focus was to target the spread of malaria in Africa but devising collective strategies. The conclusive resolution of the summit was that simple environmental control tools should be used to minimise the breeding of mosquitoes hence achieve the envisaged objectives.

Other simple tools that delegates resolved to use are: DDT spraying of houses; use of insecticide-impregnated nets to minimise contact between human beings and mosquitoes; early treatment within 24 hours of cases involving vulnerable groups such as children under five years of age, pregnant women and tourists.

"National experts, WHO, UNICEF and other technical partners will take care of the technical aspects of the implementation of these measures," said Samba while commenting on the success of the summit at the WHO Regional Temporary Office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

"However, we need political support by the authorities as demonstrated at the highest level at the Abuja summit at which practically all African countries were represented," he added.

Immediate measures to be taken, according to Samba, will be at the political level. Here, the WHO has requested each country's Ministry of Finance to ensure easy availability of the bednets by removing customs duty on them entirely.

It is also necessary to increase the budget of the Ministry of Health and allocate 20 percent of the debt relief to health and education. In addition, Ministries of Education will have to ensure the teaching of health issues is encouraged in schools and other public arenas.

Governments would be expected to announce malaria related preventive measures through the national radio and television stations while the Ministry of Agriculture should ensure the extension workers add malaria control to their schedule of activities.

Health experts meeting under the auspices of the WHO and in line with the Roll Back Malaria Initiative in Dar as Salaam, Tanzania, in October 1999 under the theme Insecticide - Treated Nets in the 21st Century recommended diverse measures to arrest malaria scourge.

Among the recommendations by the health experts were that 60 million African families should be provided with insecticide-treated mosquito nets over the next five years.

Local production of bednets should be increased to bring down the costs, that all tariffs on bednets and insecticides should be removed and that public and private donors should be encouraged to subsidise the provision of bednets for those who cannot afford them.

The economic costs of malaria are enormous. According to WHO, health economists estimate that in 1997 alone, African region lost more than US $ 2 billion because of malaria and malaria related diseases. The amount of loss is projected at US $ 3.6 billion this year.

The goals of the Roll Back Malaria Initiative are to reduce deaths due to malaria progressively by 50 percent by 2010, by another 30 percent by 2015 and by another 20 percent by 2025.

Optimism that this time around, the malaria scourge will be eradicated is pegged on the fact that advances are being made in knowledge of all aspects of the disease.

More to that, there are now infinitely better tools to deal with the scourge than in earlier attempts and there is a genuine involvement of Africans from endemic areas in control efforts that will help in promoting ownership of control programmes region-wide.


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