Public health experts proposed on Friday a new strategy to halve malaria deaths by 2010 and said linking malaria with other disease control programs in Africa could save lives and money.
Public health experts proposed on Friday a new strategy to halve malaria deaths by 2010 and said linking malaria with other disease control programs in Africa could save lives and money. Instead of various programs focusing on a single illness, David Molyneux, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in northern England, and Vinand Nantulya, of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said combining programs would be more efficient. “We have to think radically and to act differently,” Nantulya told a news conference. The tools exist to combat malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills one million people every year, but they are not reaching the poor people in remote areas of Africa who need them most. “If these tools were linked to existing programs they could make a difference,” Nantulya added. The “Roll Back Malaria” initiative, launched by the World Health Organization in 1998, set out to halve malaria deaths by 2010. But Molyneux said progress has been very slow or non-existent and that a new approach is clearly required. With roughly 3,000 people dying each day from malaria — about the same number of fatalities in the September 11 attack in the United States — urgent action is needed. “Essentially Africa is facing a 9/11 every day which is being almost ignored, totally under-funded and poor people are not getting access to medicines and bed nets which are available at minuscule costs in comparison to what is spent on other global activities,” Molyneux said. He added that programs such as those to reduce anemia, intestinal worms, river blindness and measles exist and are reaching 75 percent of people in communities which need them and bringing huge public health benefits. Broadening the programs to include malaria efforts could improve distribution of bed nets and drugs to difficult-to-reach areas, according to the strategy described in the British Medical Journal. (Source:Reuters Health News, May 2004)