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UNICEF, WHO statements on World Malaria Day

Apr 27, 2010, 1:46 PM

The world marked World Malaria Day on 25th April 2010, which is celebrated annually by countries all over the world, to renew their commitment in the fight against the killer disease, malaria. Health Matters brings to our readers the statements made by the UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M Veneman, and the Regional Director of the World Health Organization Africa Region, Dr. Luis Sambo, on the occasion of World Malaria Day.

UNICEF Executive Director On World Malaria Day, The Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann M.Veneman, in her statement said:

"It is unacceptable that around 850,000 people annually still die from a mosquito bite. Of those who die from malaria each year, nearly 90 per cent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, and the majority of those deaths are children under five years old.  This shocking disparity is even more unacceptable."

A media dispatch from the UNICEF country office stated; "As we commemorate World Malaria Day 2010, there are only 250 days left to meet the challenge set by the UN Secretary-General for all endemic countries to achieve universal coverage with essential malaria control interventions by 31 December 2010."

The release added that The UN Secretary-General's goal is achievable, and real progress has been made.  There has been a significant increase in insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) coverage in several African countries, largely due to widespread national distribution campaigns with an emphasis on reaching those most in danger of contracting malaria: the poor and rural populations.

"Evidence shows that malaria control interventions work, but they need to be scaled up even more to achieve the 2010 goal."

The dual approach in the fight against malaria - from better coverage of ITNs to increased use of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies or ACTs to treat patients - is what is needed to help save hundreds of thousands of lives.

According to the dispatch, strong collaboration among governments, donors, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and faith based organizations have driven much of the success in combating the disease, and this must continue.

Fighting malaria yields other benefits. "Reducing malaria reduces the burden in over-stretched health centers. Reducing malaria reduces the number of people who die of HIV and AIDS, as malaria is a significant contributing cause to those deaths.

"Reducing malaria reduces the number of people who die of malnutrition as those already weakened from lack of food are more likely to die if they contract malaria. Reducing malaria improves the health of pregnant mothers and, therefore, improves the health of their babies," UNICEF declared in its dispatch.

Message of WHO Africa Regional Director On World Malaria Day 2010

Today, 25 April 2010, we celebrate World Malaria Day under the global theme 'Counting Malaria Out.' The slogan in the African Region is 'Communities Engage To Conquer Malaria!'

The burden of malaria is extremely heavy in the African Region which accounts for 85% of malaria cases and 90% of malaria deaths worldwide. Malaria victims are mostly children under five years of age. This situation is unacceptable because effective interventions are available, and should be made accessible to all, including people in remote areas and villages.

Over the years, African leaders have committed themselves to scaling up malaria prevention and control interventions with the goal of eventual elimination of the disease. This commitment has led to some progress.

For example, in 2008, 31% of households owned an Insecticide-treated Net (ITN) compared with 17% in 2006. Furthermore, 24% of children under five years used an ITN. As a result of increased use of  ITN, indoor residual spraying, preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy and artemisinin-based combination therapy, ten countries in our Region were able to reduce malaria cases by at least 50% between 2000 and 2008.

These countries are Botswana, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania (Zanzibar) and Zambia. It is gratifying to note that several other countries are also making progress in malaria control and towards reaching the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015. This demonstrates that with adequate resources and use of effective tools, dramatic improvements in people?s health can be achieved.

A collective and coordinated action by all stakeholders is therefore needed to ensure delivery of quality community-based health interventions; improved access to commodities and services; and the scaling up of interventions such as the use of insecticide-treated nets, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy, indoor residual spraying and prompt diagnosis and treatment of febrile cases.

I would like to reiterate our appeal to governments to allocate adequate resources to the health sector, particularly to health systems strengthening and to improving the delivery of community-based interventions. The sustained engagement of development partners will be critical to support national malaria control programmes and related disease control programmes, child and maternal health, and education, in the context of environmental sustainability and poverty reduction.

For its part, WHO will continue to provide guidance regarding appropriate malaria control policies and interventions.

 In addition, WHO will intensify technical support to countries in partnership with the UN Secretary General, the RBM Partnership, regional economic communities, the African Union and global health initiatives such as GFATM, the US President?s Malaria Initiative, The World Bank Booster Program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Clinton Foundation as well as other multilateral and bilateral partners. These efforts will focus on accelerating malaria control in Africa with a view to achieving the MDG target of halting and beginning to reverse malaria incidence by 2015.

Each one of us has a role to play in this drive. We should pay particular attention to communities where children, women and people living with HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable. Increased emphasis should be placed on the day-to-day involvement of families, school children and teachers, students, youths, women, men and civil society organizations.

The call for community engagement means that we must:

Ensure community ownership and participation including contribution to human and financial resources and strengthening of alliances to fight malaria;

Build upon local knowledge and experiences, especially in environmental protection and management for disease prevention;

involve all families and community leaders in local development initiatives;

Focus on prevention while establishing the enabling conditions for prompt referral of febrile cases to district health facilities by caregivers at household level;

Work with and support community health workers;

Strengthening capacity for monitoring service accessibility, quality and uptake at community level.

The countdown has started!

I call upon every African community to assume leadership in the fight against malaria. Each of us can contribute from his or her home, village, neighborhood, school or workplace. Communities must act to protect themselves from malaria. Politicians, parliamentarians, governments, private sector officials, civil society, faith-based organizations and the mass media must engage to support community-based interventions. We need engagement of champions from all walks of life including the arts, culture and sports arenas in order to disseminate positive messages to combat malaria.

Together, let's take action to defeat malaria!