Increased Funds Lead To ‘Significant Progress’ In Global Malaria Fight, WHO Report Says

WHO’s World Malaria Report 2009, which was released on Tuesday, found “increased funding is starting to pay off in the battle against malaria but prevention and treatment must be increased to try to halt the killer disease,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 12/15). According to the Associated Press, there were more than 240 million cases of malaria and an estimated 863,000 people, mostly in Africa, died of the disease in 2008 (Cheng, 12/15).

The report “found ‘significant progress’ in the delivery of mosquito nets and malaria drugs, thanks largely to an increase in funds … But it said $5 billion more was needed every year to get maximum global impact worldwide,” Reuters writes (12/15). According to a WHO press release, funding commitments worldwide rose from $730 million in 2006 to $1.7 billion in 2009, which promoted “a dramatic scale up of malaria control interventions in several countries, along with measurable reductions in malaria burden.” The release also noted that “the coverage of malaria programmes needs to be stepped up drastically in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals.”

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in the release, “While much remains to be done, the data presented here clearly suggest that the tremendous increase in funding for malaria control is resulting in the rapid scale up of today’s control tools. This, in turn, is having a profound effect on health – especially the health of children in sub-Saharan Africa. In a nutshell, development aid for health is working” (12/15).

“The WHO report found a marked increase in ownership of insecticide-treated nets in 2008 from previous years – more than half of homes in 13 of the 35 African countries worst affected by malaria have at least one net,” Reuters writes. The report also said that “[i]n countries that have high coverage with bed nets and treatment programmes, such as Eritrea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia and Tanzania, cases of malaria and deaths from the disease have halved” (12/15).

“Despite the drop in cases, the number of infections fell the least in countries with the biggest problems, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the AP reports. In addition, the report found that fewer than 15 percent of children with fever in malaria-endemic countries receive artemisinin-based combination therapies (12/15).

The report also highlighted parasite resistance to anti-malaria medicines as a threat to achieving global control of the disease. “Confirmation of artemisinin resistance was reported in 2009, and WHO is leading a major resistance containment effort in South East Asia,” according to the WHO release (12/15).

According to the AP, there is “considerable uncertainty about the data on which the report is based, and the numbers all come with a big margin of error. There are discrepancies between the numbers of bed nets reported to have been distributed by authorities and those actually in use, and the numbers of cases are based on modeling, not actual numbers of people with malaria” (12/15).

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