Malaria is killing one African child every 30
Experts meet around
world to discuss report of "impending crisis"
25 April 2003
Malaria is killing more children in Africa than ever before, it
continues to impoverish much of the continent, and drugs to fight it
have all but run out. So concludes the first comprehensive report on
malaria in Africa, published today, Africa Malaria Day1.
To discuss the situation, politicians, public-health experts and
scientists are meeting simultaneously in London, Washington DC,
Nairobi, and Khartoum today.
Some 3000 African children die from malaria each day - equivalent
to one every 30 seconds, the report estimates. Poor and pregnant women
and their babies are particularly at risk.
The report also confirms what many researchers have been warning
for decades. Resistance to chloroquine - cheapest and most available
anti-malaria drug - is now so widespread that it is practically
useless in most parts of Africa.
The report "alerts the global community and governments to an
impending crisis." It is the product of a multinational effort called
Roll Back Malaria (RBM) established by the United Nations and led by
Call to action
The report highlights four interventions that the RBM campaign must
make to meet its target of halving malaria deaths in Africa by 2010.
- Insecticide treated bed nets - which can reduce transmission of
malaria by 17%2 - must be made
available to more people more quickly. Taxes and tariffs on them
must be removed.
- Pregnant women must get bed nets and anti-malarial medicines as
- Next-generation drugs must be made available to treat
chloroquine-resistant malaria. At between $1 and $3 dollars per
treatment these drugs cost hundreds of times more then chloroquine.
- Malaria Early Warning Systems, using weather forecasting and
data on malaria hotspots, must be created to help authorities
mitigate outbreaks. Such systems are already proving their worth in
South Africa and are on trial in other countries.
Experts agree with these recommendations. "These are the tools we
know can work," says malaria epidemiologist Bob Snow at the Center for
International Development at Harvard University in Cambridge,
Implementing the solutions however, is a challenge. "It's been
known for 20 years that bed nets are cheap and prevent people from
getting malaria," says Snow. "But only 4 percent of Africa's children
sleep under one each night."
RBM will require more money and commitment. Both have improved in
recent years, particularly among African nations, according to the
report. Last year African countries committed US $256 million to the
new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis And Malaria.
And it's not such a huge price to pay. Malaria costs Africa an
estimated $12 billon/year in lost gross domestic product.
Notably absent from the report is any mention of vaccines against
malaria. A vaccine that could provide a one-shot solution to the
scourge is at least a decade away, beyond the purview of the RBM
campaign. "Kids are dying today, so there must be an immediate focus,"
agrees Melinda Moree, director of the US-based Malaria Vaccine
Long-term, however, a vaccine could be the answer to Africa's
malaria woes. "We will need new tools and history shows that vaccines
are the best ones for bringing diseases under control," says Moree.
Some 11 candidate vaccines will be tested on patients this year.