The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a campaign dubbed ‘Roll Back Malaria’ last month in a bid to grapple with a “re-emerging disease” in Africa, where more than 3,000 children die every day of malaria. The disease especially affects the poor, killing the young and the weak in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO Director General, decided in July 1998 that malaria would be one of the WHO’s top priorities and needed to have enough financial support to renew efforts to curb the disease.
Malaria continues to put a strain on the economic and social development of many countries, with some studies indicating that malaria could hold back income by as much as 12 percent, according to a WHO fact sheet. It emphasised that the campaign would focus on significantly “reducing mortality and morbidity” stemming from malaria, and not its eradication which had succeeded in some continents and “failed severely on others”.
‘Roll Back Malaria’ would be an opportunity to develop health care systems in countries where malaria is endemic and strengthen their ability to cope with malaria with inexpensive and appropriate technology. It would also look at the preventive aspect of containing the spread of the disease by advocating the use of impregnated bednets. The simple use of treated nets would save scores of children from the death-carrying mosquitoes, the report added.
The campaign pulls together UN expertise from UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank. The World Bank will focus on establishing private-public partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry on the development of new malaria products and the UNDP will continue to support the UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special programmes for Research and training in tropical diseases (TDR), which focuses on the development of drugs and tools for malaria control and adapting research in local settings.
AFP quoted French scientific sources which reported that resistance to chloroquine, the main drug used to fight malaria in Africa, had increased and led to a rise in deaths.
The full report on the Roll Back Malaria campaign is available on www.malaria.org