UN officials on Thursday said that much more is needed to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from malaria while financing has increased substantially and enabled great progress in the fight against the disease.
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While more than 3 million lives have been saved between 2000 and 2012, there are still an estimated 627,000 people dying each year from malaria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“That’s needless because for a 5-(U.S.) dollar bed net, a 0.50-dollar diagnostic test and a 1-dollar anti-malarial treatment, there really is no reason in 2013 for anybody to die from this disease,” Dr. Robert D. Newman, the director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
On Wednesday, the WHO released a new report showing that global efforts to control and eliminate malaria have reduced mortality by 45 per cent worldwide, and 49 percent in Africa.
That is the equivalent of 3.3 million lives saved between 2000 and 2012 — 90 percent of those are children under the age of five, and 69 percent are in the 10 countries hardest hit by malaria.
The World Malaria Report also showed that international and domestic funding committed to malaria control topped at 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2012 — less than half of the 5.1 billion U.S. dollars needed annually to achieve universal access to interventions.
“While 2.5 billion dollars is an impressive number… it’s still far short of the 5.1 billion dollars that we need to fully scale up these life-saving interventions,” said Newman.
“We have a lot of work left to do. I don’t want people to think well it’s time to pull away these resources and spend them on something else,” he said. “We’re at a glass half-full… it is time to celebrate an amazing humanitarian and public health achievement…”
“(But if you happen to be one of the kids that’s in the part of the glass that’s half empty, then a half-full glass isn’t full enough. And we have to work together to find those resources,” he said.
Earlier this month, international donors committed 12 billion dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at its fourth replenishment meeting held in Washington, DC.
Ray Chambers, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for malaria and for the financing of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, noted that the endemic African countries and their leaders have really stepped up, highlighting the “unprecedented” amount of financial contributions from them and other developing countries during the Fund’s replenishment.
The Millennium Development Goals are a set of eight anti-poverty targets to be reached by its deadline of 2015.
“We’ve never had as effective a partnership with the developing nations as we have today,” Chambers said.
“A lot of work has to be done,” he said. However, the report released on Wednesday provides a “great impetus” to reach the goals set for 2015.
In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon established the goal of reducing malaria deaths among children to “near-zero” — defined as less than 100,000 child deaths annually — by the end of 2015, as called for by the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals.