Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Malaria has been a scourge of humanity since antiquity. Every year it kills more than 3 million people.

Scientists believe there are about 515 million cases of malaria per year, which puts about a third of the world's population at risk.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that today alone 3000 children will die because of it.

Many who survive are often left with brain disease or paralysis.

It is a global outrage that dwarfs AIDS, the Indian Ocean tsunami or any current conflict, yet we barely register its existence.

More than 80 per cent of malaria deaths take place in Sub-Saharan Africa and most are among children under five years of age. An African child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.

Malaria is killing Africa's future.

In the last decade, the prevalence of malaria has been escalating at an alarming rate, especially in Africa. An estimated 300-500 million cases each year cause 1.5 to 2.7 million deaths, more than 90% of the deaths are in children under 5 years of age in Africa.

Last year the World Health Organization stated that up to 30% of Africa's malaria deaths are in countries undergoing emergency situations in which war, civil strife, food shortages and displacement affect large civilian populations. The disease is estimated to cost Africa US$12 billion in lost GDP every year.

Nigeria Federal Government released a report the other day that said an estimated N132billion is lost annually in Nigeria, due to malaria scourge and the huge cost of treatment, prevention and loss of man hours. It said malaria has been responsible for 60 per cent of outpatient visits to health facilities, 30 per cent of childhood death, 25 per cent of death in children under one year and 11 per cent of maternal mortality, making it even more of a killer disease that the much dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In addition, the government report points out 70 per cent of pregnant women suffer from malaria and its accompanying complications such as maternal anaemia, low birth weight, still births and abortions.

Yet this disease is both preventable and treatable. The solutions are available. For just US$10, a child can be protected against malaria by a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net (ITN). And an infected child can be treated with Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

Last week came some positive news. Maybe.

European medical authorities have approved modalities for ensuring that a new, low-cost anti-malarial drug is fast-tracked and delivered to African countries. The drug, dubbed Eurartesim, belongs to the Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), and is a combination of dihydroartemisinin (DHA) and piperaquine, a combination that has been proven to clear the malaria parasites from the body in just three days.

Dr Ambrose Talisuna, field coordinator of the African Artekin Malarial Trial said: "Any new, cheap and easy to administer antimalarial drug is indeed good news."

In addition, a partnership between the Cuban government and South African companies may see pharmaceutical products used to treat infectious diseases such as malaria being developed locally.

Cuban embassy counsellor Enrique Orta yesterday said the country sought to develop further partnerships with local companies that would result in the transfer of knowledge to benefit South African citizens.

The following is from MISNA.


Malaria holds the economy of Sub-Saharan Africa in check suggests a WHO study. It showed that the GDP of sub-Saharan states in the reference year 2000 would have been about 32% higher had the disease been eliminated 35 years before. According to the WHO representative in Senegal, Antonio Pedro Felipe Junior, the presence of malaria and the fear of its further spread might compromise investment and tourist activity in most of the endemic areas. Last Saturday in Nioro, in occasion of the opening of the national campaign for the struggle against malaria, the WHO manager said that “the heavy economic burden caused by the disease constitutes a serious obstacle to development”. Junior expressed appreciation for the “diligence” of some countries, such as Senegal, which have been pioneers in the struggle against malaria and conforming to the Abuja declaration of April 2000. In that historic meeting, the governors of 44 African countries committed to undertake an appropriate action aimed to reinforce national health systems aimed at allowing a more rapid access to cure and especially to intensify the efforts to halve the cases of malaria by 2010.

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