Monday, September 26, 2011

Greater progress is possible, though risks and gaps remain

UN SG Ban Ki-moon
The Roll Back Malaria Secretariat has indicated a record success and anticipates near-zero malaria deaths in next the decade if efforts are sustained.
A report launched on Monday by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) finds that the world has made remarkable gains against malaria in the past ten years, increasing optimism that an end to the disease is in sight. 

The report “Roll Back Malaria Partnership: A Decade of Partnership and Results” said global malaria deaths have dropped by an estimated 38 percent, with 43 countries (11 of them in Africa) cutting malaria cases or deaths by 50 percent or more, reversing the trend of the previous decade and saving over a million lives.

“Despite these impressive gains, many people at risk of malaria still lack sufficient access to critical treatment and prevention options, such as insecticide treated nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, diagnostic testing, and effective antimalarial drugs, including drugs to treat and prevent malaria in pregnant women,” RBM said on September 12, 2011. “There is more to be done to address these issues, but with appropriate commitments, the gains can accrue rapidly.” 

“Only rarely have we seen a public health initiative provide so much return on investment. Thanks to the efforts of the Roll Back Malaria Partners over the past decade, we have a foundation that allows affected countries and communities to reach even greater results in the years to come", said the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the launch of the report.

“With approximately US$5 billion mobilised over this period, coverage has risen across all interventions to prevent and treat malaria, particularly insecticide-treated nets. Enough nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80 percent of the population at risk in sub-Saharan Africa.”

And Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO's Global Malaria Programme, argued the report's findings are cause for real optimism. "The results of the past decade exceed what anyone could have predicted and prove that malaria control is working. Many of these achievements have occurred in the last five years, which tells us that we are becoming increasingly effective in our ability to tackle this disease."

This recent stepping up of malaria control is believed to be as a result of a number of new agencies and initiatives created that greatly contribute to the fight against malaria, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the US President's Malaria Initiative, the World Bank Malaria Booster Program, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNITAID, the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, various civil society organizations and others. 

However, RBM said even those countries which have already demonstrated remarkable success in controlling malaria continue to face significant challenges today. The progress achieved to date through greatly scaled-up prevention with insecticide treated nets and indoor residual spraying is threatened by the emergence of mosquitoes resistant to current insecticides. 

Gains are also threatened by the emergence of malaria parasites, identified in the Mekong region in Asia, which are resistant to artemisinin, the key component of the most effective drug combinations currently available to treat malaria.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership, founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank to coordinate global action against malaria, now includes over 500 private and public sector partners.

  • Author: Modou S. Joof for The Voice Newspaper

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