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'Malaria takes 1m lives annually'

Apr 23, 2010, 12:00 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah & Isatou Senghore

The officer-in-charge and acting UNICEF country representative in the Gambia, Dr Merittxel Relano, has said that malaria, a preventable disease, takes an estimated almost one million lives annually, and affects as many as half a billion people in 109 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Dr. Relaon was speaking at a press conference convened by the National Malaria Control Programme in preparation for this year's World Malaria Day, to be celebrated on Sunday 25th April.

These figure may seem glaring, "but we have not lost the fight against malaria," he told journalists.

This year?s celebration, under the theme "Counting Out Malaria" seeks to renew political commitment and increase advocacy and social mobilisation for malaria control and prevention.

The acting UNICEF representative stated that the international community is more determined than ever to overcome the disease by putting in place effective, low-cost tools to prevent and treat malaria.

According to him, World Malaria Day offers all stakeholders the opportunity in rolling back malaria, and helping to generate broad gains in multiple areas of health and human development.

He further noted that this year's commemoration marks a critical moment in time, as the international malaria community has merely less than a year to meet the "roll back malaria initiative" targets of delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria by 2010.

Mrs. Adam Jagne-Sonko, the Programme Manager at the National Malaria Control Programme, noted that the day reaffirms the commitment to roll back malaria in the whole world, and also marks a day for recognising the importance of tackling malaria as a disease of poverty.

Also, speaking at the press conference, Dr. Mamo Jawla, representing the local WHO office (World Health Organisation) said the country office has noted the increased commitment by the leadership of The Gambia government in it efforts in the prevention and control of Malaria.

"We are aware of the efforts of the National Malaria Control Programme and its Roll Back Malaria partners in developing a sound malaria prevention and control policy and strategic plan," he said.

According to Dr. Jawla, the collaboration as well as the technical and financial support of various partners is a great opportunity for the implementation of WHO recommended cost-effective interventions, such as the Artemisinin-Base Combination Therapy (ACT), Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITNs), Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) and other actions, which resulted in a significant reduction in the burden of malaria in the country.

Adama Demba Chief Nursing Officer chaired the press briefing, which included presentations on malaria and a question and answer session with journalists and other partners involved in malaria prevention and control.