Global Conference Addresses Malaria; U.S. To Take Leading Role in Fighting Disease
Officials spent the second annual World Malaria Day at a global conference pressing for further investment in preventive measures to eradicate the disease, AP/WJLA reports. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday said, "If we can maintain current levels of progress, by 2015 there could be nearly zero preventable deaths from malaria." President Obama wants the U.S. to take a leading role in the global effort to end the almost one million annual malaria deaths within five years, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said at the conference.
AP/WJLA reports, "Obama, in a statement issued later, urged the international community to redouble its efforts 'to rid the world of a disease that does not have to take lives.'" President Obama said, "The U.S. stands with our global partners and people around the world to reaffirm our commitment to make the U.S. a leader in ending deaths from malaria by 2015." The U.S. plans to commit $527 million to the effort in fiscal year 2009, Rice said, according to AP/WJLA.
Also at the conference, Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, announced that her agency has enough money to provide insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to everyone in Africa at risk of getting malaria by 2010 and that they could help eliminate the disease by 2015 (Lederer, AP/WJLA, 4/24). UNICEF says it will cost $2.4 billion to distribute 240 million ITNs to those who need them; each ITN lasts about five years. A report from UNICEF says that since 2004, the number of ITNs in use has risen from 30 million to 100 million (Afrique en Ligne, 4/26). "We must redouble our efforts to ensure that every person has access to a mosquito net - and that they will use them," the secretary general Ban said (Xinhua, 4/24).
According to CNN, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) has "decided on a new plan to subsidize anti-malarial medication in 11 African countries where one treatment dose now costs $10 in the private sector, more than many Africans earn in a week." Awa Marie Coll-Seck, who heads up RBM said, "We will negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to make them reduce the price of anti-malarial medication" (Lourie, CNN, 4/24).
World Malaria Day Opinion Pieces
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, writes in a CNN.com editorial that while previous efforts to eradicate malaria have failed, new efforts can succeed only through "a long term commitment that involves multiple interventions, disciplines, strategies and organizations." Fauci continues, "We now believe that malaria eradication - controlling and eliminating the malaria parasite in every region across the globe - is possible, but only if we learn from history and our past mistakes" The new interventions include biomedical research, monitoring shifts in the disease's patterns, new diagnostics and drugs as well as an effective vaccine, according to Fauci. But the greatest challenge, Fauci writes, is sustaining research efforts. "We may run the risk of becoming victims of our own success," he writes. "Once we find ways to reduce the disease burden and deaths due to malaria, the world may no longer perceive malaria as a major threat and may lose interest" (Fauci, CNN.com, 4/25).
An editorial in the Washington Post says, "With focused and coordinated efforts by organizations, clergy and governments, the 2015 goal for malaria eradication could be reached." The editorial continues: "Reducing the toll of a disease at such a scale requires funding, of course. It also requires vigilance. Bed nets, which cost only $10 each and last up to five years, are not effective if people don't sleep under them, and homes will continue to be havens for mosquitoes if people don't allow for additional spraying" (Washington Post, 4/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.