U.N. chief calls for more effort and money in fighting malaria

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called on countries to intensify their efforts to combat malaria, stressing that despite remarkable progress in recent years, much more needs to be done to end the “monumental tragedy” of one child dying every minute from the disease.

In his World Malaria Day talk, Ban highlighted the role international partnerships between governments, international agencies, donors, corporations and civil society organizations, among other actors, which have saved millions of lives through their work.

“A global coalition has boosted proven strategies, including long-lasting insecticidal nets, indoor spraying, rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malaria medicines for populations at risk,” Ban said. “More children are sleeping safely under nets, more families are gathering in rooms protected from mosquitoes, more communities have access to testing, and more patients get the medicines they need to recover.”

Malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, infects 216 million people and kills nearly 650,000 people around the world every year, with most of the deaths occurring in Africa.

Ban called for countries to collectively pledge to close the $3.2 billion funding gap to achieve universal coverage in Africa up to 2015, and ultimately eliminate the disease.

“Now is the time to push for much greater progress,” Ban said, emphasizing that there should be no excuses about making “smart and affordable” investments in malaria interventions as
the costs are relatively low. A rapid diagnostic test costs 50 cents, while a course of an anti-malaria drug costs only about $1. A bed net that lasts three years and can protect several children costs approximately $5.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization and others launched his year’s search for the 2012 Malaria Champions of the Americas. Currently in their fourth year, the annual awards honor innovative efforts that have significantly contributed to overcoming the challenges of malaria in communities, countries, or the region of the Americas as a whole.

Previous winners have been:

• The Municipality of Wampusirpi in the Department of Gracias a Dios, Honduras, honored in 2011 for outstanding achievements in reducing the burden of malaria and establishing an effective model to combat malaria in a challenging socio-economic environment, particularly in indigenous communities.

• The National Malaria Board of Suriname, recognized in 2010 for outstanding achievement in reducing Suriname’s malaria burden through strengthened partnerships, community mobilization, and implementing a comprehensive program of surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that extends to border areas and mobile populations.

• The National Service for Control of Arthropod-Transmitted Diseases in Ecuador’s Ministry of Health and the Project for Malaria Control in Andean Border Areas of the Andean Health Organization, honored in 2009 for outstanding contributions to the prevention and control of malaria through an innovative partnership targeting vulnerable populations.

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