This year’s commemoration of World Malaria Day (April 25) was marked with cautious optimism as members of the international community highlighted the progress made in combating the disease while also emphasizing the need to further ramp up efforts to fight it. The World Health Organization says malaria still affects up to 250 million people and causes some 1 million deaths annually.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “an extraordinary intensification” of existing global efforts to meet the sixth Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of malaria by 2015. He underscored the need to scale up lifesaving and cost-effective interventions and provide timely testing and treatment for infected individuals.
Donors and other key international organizations have outlined what they are doing to help make sure the 2015 deadline is met. Some of these initiatives are new while others are existing programs. The Roll Back Malaria Partnership, for instance, is set to unveil a new public-private partnership that involves Novartis, Vodacom and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. This partnership will use text messaging to increase access to malaria treatment in Tanzania. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, is proposing a new approach to first-line treatment through the use of the drug artesunate for severe malaria. This approach, WHO says, could save up to 200,000 lives a year.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, on the other hand, highlighted an initiative it introduced last year that is now being piloted in eight developing countries. The Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria, which aims to help drive down the prices of anti-malaria drugs, is making “rapid” progress, the fund said in a statement.
The United States and United Kingdom, meantime, explained the focus of their global anti-malaria efforts. The U.K. will support better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as innovative solutions to combat the disease, according to Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, while U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said his country will increase the distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, boost indoor residual spraying and use more effective antimalarial drug therapies to prevent an additional 500,000 malaria-related deaths each year.