the international community marked the first World Malaria Day
Time to get tough on malaria
By Ban Ki-moon
As far as security details go, mine is pretty unflappable. They
are seldom fazed by unruly crowds or post-conflict hotspots. But
travelling in East Africa one day last year, I stepped into a
swarm of mosquitoes. From the expressions on their faces, I
realised that close protection was no match for this unarmed
threat the size of a speck.
Malaria is a relentless killer. In the time it takes to read
this article, six more children will die of the disease. Each
year, as many as half a billion people catch malaria. More than
a million die.
Experts say that malaria slows economic growth in Africa by up
to 1.3 per cent a year, holding back development and costing
tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity. In countries
where the disease is particularly acute, itís not unusual for
malaria to consume as much as 40 per cent of government health
budgets. This has a crippling effect on social health, welfare
This is unacceptable ó all the more so because malaria is
preventable and treatable.
The international community has beaten back deadly pandemics
before. Small pox has been eradicated. We are currently writing
the final chapter in polio eradication. We may not be able to
entirely wipe out malaria right away. But we can control it and
dramatically reduce its toll, if we act together.
On April 25, the international community is marking the first
World Malaria Day. On this day, the U.N. family and its partners
are launching an all-out international initiative to expand our
fight against malaria.
This is the first time the international community is
considering a control effort at full scale. While past efforts
have yielded some successes, the lack of resources for universal
coverage forced us to largely restrict our focus to young
children and pregnant mothers ó the two groups most at risk of
dying. We saved lives, but we also left a large reservoir of
people unprotected against the disease, which served only to
keep it alive and spreading within the population. As a result,
malaria remains endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Asia,
Latin America and the Caribbean.
Success in the fight against malaria requires only the
widespread distribution of bednets and medication, coupled with
appropriate indoor residual spraying. It costs less than $10 to
purchase and distribute insecticide-treated bednets that last
for up to five years. With that simple investment, governments
provide a five-year shield. Recipients can go to school, work
and contribute productively to society. Itís hard to imagine $10
better spent. For proof, note how Ethiopia has cut its malaria
death toll among children by half over the past three years.
Rwanda reduced deaths among children by two-thirds. Both
countries distributed millions of long-lasting
insecticide-treated bed nets and provided anti-malarial drugs to
those in need.
Now we need to step up action in all affected countries. That is
why, together with Roll Back Malaria and my new Special Envoy
for Malaria, Ray Chambers, I am putting forward a bold but
achievable vision. Our aim is to stop malaria deaths by ensuring
universal coverage in Africa by the end of 2010.
This means providing all of the population at risk in Africa
with long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets and indoor
household residual spraying. Similarly, all public health
facilities must have access to effective malaria treatment and
diagnosis. And there has to be special treatment for pregnant
women in regions where the incidence of malaria is high.
Delivery channels, especially through community health workers,
must be strengthened and expanded. And with so many people still
dying from malaria, successful research and development for
longer-term control, elimination and eradication efforts are
Africa is the region where most malaria deaths occur, but we
canít stop there. Malaria mosquitoes, like other problems in our
globalised world, recognise no borders.
Resources have to be consistent so that countries can not only
plan anti-malaria activities but sustain them over the years.
Traditional partners such as the World Bank, the Global Fund to
Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and donor nations must come
up with funding, supported by the private sector. Endemic
countries need to put in place plans to achieve universal
coverage, and donors must respond with timely and predictable
funding in the next few months.
Ending malaria deaths can breathe new life into our broader
campaign to stamp out poverty, once and for all. It is one of
the key Millennium Development Goals ó the vision adopted by all
the worldís governments for building a better world in the
twenty-first century. We have the resources and the know-how.
But we have less than 1,000 days before the end of 2010. So
letís get to work. ó Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New
(The writer is Secretary-General of the United Nations.)