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Agency And Africa Mark Fifth Anti-Malaria Day

UN Health Agency And Africa Mark Fifth Anti-Malaria Day

New York, Apr 25 2005

The war against malaria in Africa can only be won if Governments, communities and development partners work together against the parasitic disease that kills more than 800,000 Africans per year, the regional director for Africa of the United Nations health agency said today.

"Let us rededicate ourselves collectively to a more coordinated fight against this public health challenge facing our continent," Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo of the World Health Organization (<" http://www.afro.who.int/amd2005/index.html ">WHO) said, marking the fifth annual <" http://rbm.who.int/amd2005/">Africa Malaria Day.

In April 2000 Heads of State from 44 countries, or their representatives, met in Abuja, Nigeria, and signed the Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action committing their Governments to halving malaria deaths by 2010 and reaching a target of about 60 per cent coverage for malaria prevention and control by 2005.

The theme for the fifth commemoration is "Unite against Malaria" and the slogan is "Together We Can Beat Malaria."

Expressing satisfaction about the progress made, Dr. Sambo said available data now show that indoor insecticide spraying averages over 85 per cent in seven countries and 21 malaria-endemic countries have adopted Artemisin-based Combination Therapy, as the organisms became chloroquine-resistant, while 19 other countries are implementing a strategy for home-based care of the infected.

WHO's Roll Back Malaria Partnership, a worldwide grouping of governments, businesses and celebrities, founded in 1998, pointed to unprecedented recent strides in promoting the manufacture on the continent of anti-malarial medicines and millions of insecticide-treated bed nets.

Twenty countries have reduced tariffs and taxes on imported bed nets and insecticides, with the result that about 20 million nets are now in use in the region, Dr. Sambo noted.

Financial resources for Africa's malaria-control activities have also dramatically increased, with the <" http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/">Global Fund for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an initiative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, allocating about $700 million to 35 countries for malaria prevention and control.

Nonetheless, "five years after the Abuja summit, malaria remains a major contributor to the disease burden in Africa," Dr. Sambo said, with about 60 per cent of the 350 million to 500 million global clinical malaria episodes occurring in African countries.

Weak health care systems, absenteeism among school children and diminished or lost worker productivity all contribute to make malaria a significant contributor to low economic growth in endemic countries, costing Africa an estimated $12 million annually, he said.

The major regional commemoration was taking place in Zambia's capital Lusaka with community groups, entertainers, and local, national and international dignitaries taking part.

Lusaka would also welcome the participants in two events publicizing the fight against malaria, a 135-kilometre Bicycle Race against Malaria and the Nairobi-Lusaka Drive against Malaria. The latter featured disabled driver David Robertson, who has been distributing treated bed nets in remote areas of the continent.

ENDS

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