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News Outlets Examine World Malaria Day 2010

Ahead of Sunday’s World Malaria Day, news outlets examined global efforts to combat the disease and the mood among advocates.

“This is the most optimistic World Malaria Day to date,” said U.N. special envoy Ray Chambers, the Financial Times reports, adding that his perspective is “shared by other top officials who have observed a recent resurgence in efforts to tackle the disease, which the latest estimates suggest infects 250m people and kills more than 850,000 a year.” Improved medicines, fundraising campaigns and the involvement of high-profile personalities and community groups have helped fight the disease and raise awareness globally. “Perhaps most important, the creation last autumn of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance suggests the continent’s own politicians are beginning to take a necessary fresh look at their pivotal responsibility in improving their citizens’ health. Awa Coll-Seck, head of the Roll Back Malaria partnership of public, private and non-governmental groups, says: ‘Things have moved really very quickly over the past three years, and you can see the results.'”

The FT notes that some countries, such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have not seen major improvements. “Still more countries have such poor-quality data that attempting to measure progress is difficult,” the newspaper writes, adding that significant remaining challenges are “deepening, broadening and sustaining the response” (Jack, 4/22).

The article is part of a special series, “Combating Malaria,” which includes articles examining vaccine development, the supply of artemisinin, the use of bed nets to prevent malaria and several other malaria-related topics. It also features several opinion pieces by Tony Blair, founder of the Tony Blair Foundation, Ray Chambers and several other African and international malaria experts and advocates (4/23).

Also to mark World Malaria Day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke about progress to combat malaria around the world, Al Jazeera reports. “This World Malaria Day brings much cause for satisfaction. In a very short time, the world has gone from simply trying to hold malaria at bay to the realistic goal of delivering effective and affordable care to all who need it,” Ban said (4/25).

In a statement, Ban said, “Since 2003, international commitments for malaria control have increased more than five-fold to $1.7 billion in 2009. Though still far short of what is required, these funds have supported a dramatic expansion of malaria control interventions” (4/20).

The U.N. News Centre writes that he also said “our optimism must also be leavened with caution,” calling malaria a “tenacious foe. To sustain current gains we must be vigilant. Parasite resistance to anti-malarial medicines is a considerable threat, and the use of artemisinin-based monotherapies is the principal force behind its spread.” He “called on the world community to remove all oral artemisinin-based monotherapies from the supply chain.”

Ban also said, “The advances of recent years show that the battle against malaria can be won” (4/25).

On Sunday, the United Against Malaria campaign said it is launching a campaign to sell bracelets made of African beads in an effort to fight malaria, VOA News reports.

“The Africa Director of United Against Malaria, Christina Barrineau, told reporters that the campaign aims to make malaria prevention and treatment available to every person on the African continent by the end of this year. She said the ultimate goal was to eradicate malaria within five years.”

The bracelets “will be sold for about $3.00 each. One dollar from each sale will be given to the Global Fund which raises money to combat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.” Chris Thorpe, a spokesperson, said, “It is the first time that Africa is now giving money back to the Global Fund'”  (Bobb, 4/23). 

In related news, the “World Bank Group on Thursday committed $200 million to provide 25 million bed nets to ward off mosquitoes in sub-Saharan Africa,” Dow Jones Newswires reports.

Ray Chambers, the U.N. special envoy for malaria, said that Africa needs an additional 50 million bed nets. “As one of the three largest sources of money in the struggle to overcome malaria, the World Bank is determined to help close this gap,” Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said in a statement (Hughes, 4/22).

Also, allAfrica.com interviews Steven Phillips, medical director of global issues and projects for ExxonMobil, and a Malaria No More board member, on progress to control the disease in Africa (Shiner, 4/23).

WHO Approves 16 Additional Malaria Diagnostic Tests

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the WHO “said on Friday it had added 16 more malaria diagnostic tests to its approved list to help health workers quickly identify which patients have the disease and need immediate treatment. [WHO] assessed 29 rapid tests from a range of different manufacturers and found that 16 of them met minimum performance criteria” (Kelland, 4/23).

“These rapid tests have been a major breakthrough in malaria control,” Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said in a WHO press release. “They allow us to test people who cannot access diagnosis based on microscopy in remote, rural areas where the majority of malaria occurs.” Donors can now choose from a total of 37 tests that meet international quality and reliability standards.

According to the release, the evaluation program was “co-sponsored by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP) and the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.” Testing was conducted at the CDC (4/23).