Report Details Progress In Fighting Malaria In Africa, Notes Funding Shortfall

Global funding for malaria reached $1.7 billion in 2009, a “ten-fold” increase since 2004, and the production of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) worldwide rose to 150 million last year, according to a report, released Monday, from UNICEF and the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership, which also highlighted the need for additional funding, Agence France-Presse reports (4/19).

The report, which focused on malaria control in Africa, finds that almost “200 million of the 350 million [ITNs] needed to achieve universal coverage have been received by people in African countries,” Inter Press Service writes. It estimates that the presence of ITNs has saved 908,000 lives since 2000. The report highlights Nigeria, which has secured funding for 60 million ITNs and plans to deliver them this year, “but for the rest of the sub-Saharan countries, 47 million nets still need financing,” IPS reports (Lorentsson, 4/19).

According to the report, procurement of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) “has risen worldwide from half a million doses in 2001 to 160 million doses in 2009,” but it notes that “very few children in Africa are actually receiving it,” a RBM report summary writes. “From 2005 to 2009, among children in African countries who received any antimalarial drug, the percentage that received ACT varied in range from zero to 50” (April 2010).

Despite scaled up funding from bilateral donors, including “the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, along with more recent commitments from the World Bank, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation … available funds are still far short of the estimated $6 billion needed worldwide for effective malaria control in 2010,” according to a UNICEF Newsline article (4/19).

“Investment in malaria control is saving lives and reaping far-reaching benefits for countries. But without sustained and predictable funding, the significant contribution of malaria control toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be reversed,” Awa Marie Coll-Seck, RBM’s executive director, said, AFP writes. Ann Veneman, UNICEF’s executive director, said, “More remains to be done as children and pregnant women are still dying of this preventable and treatable disease, especially in Africa” (4/19).

The Associated Press reports on some experts’ criticisms of the report. “These are meaningless input measures that tell us only (the UN) is effective at spending other people’s money,” according to Philip Stevens of the International Policy Network. The article also quotes Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, who notes that the purchase of drugs does not necessarily correlate with access. “Tren said U.N. policies have skewed toward bednets and that it should focus on other proven tools like pesticides. But convincing donors to pay for pesticide spraying is a harder sell than bednets, especially with strong lobbying from environmentalists calling for reduced pesticide use,” the AP reports (Cheng, 4/19).

In related news, VOA News’ Science In The News examines malaria control efforts in Africa ahead of the upcoming World Malaria Day on April 25. The report notes a research project that aims to enable mosquitoes to resist the malaria parasite and the experimental RTS,S vaccine (Simms, 4/19).

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