Public health experts proposed on Friday a new strategy to halve malaria deaths by 2010 and said linking malaria with other disease control programmes in Africa could save lives and money.
Instead of various programmes focusing on a single illness, David Molyneux, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in northern England, and Vinand Nantulya, of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said combining programmes would be more efficient.
“We have to think radically and to act differently,” Nantulya told a news conference.
The tools exist to combat malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills one million people every year, but they are not reaching the poor people in remote areas of Africa who need them most.
“If these tools were linked to existing programmes they could make a difference,” Nantulya added.
The “Roll Back Malaria” initiative, launched by the World Health Organisation in 1998, set out to halve malaria deaths by 2010.
But Molyneux said progress has been very slow or non-existent and that a new approach is clearly required.
With roughly 3,000 people dying each day from malaria - about the same number of fatalities in the September 11 attack in the United States - urgent action is needed.
“Essentially Africa is facing a 9/11 every day which is being almost ignored, totally under-funded and poor people are not getting access to medicines and bed nets which are available at minuscule costs in comparison to what is spent on other global activities,” Molyneux said.
He added that programmes such as those to reduce anaemia, intestinal worms, river blindness and measles exist and are reaching 75 percent of people in communities which need them and bringing huge public health benefits.
Broadening the programmes to include malaria efforts could improve distribution of bed nets and drugs to difficult-to-reach areas, according to the strategy described in the British Medical Journal.
“If these tools were linked to existing programmes they could make a difference,” said Nantulya.
The Global Fund has allocated $30 million for malaria treatments in 45 African countries. With people in some nations living on $1 a day, Nantulya emphasised that the drugs must be free.
“We expect the allocation to increase substantially,” he said.
The researchers said they were sending out messages to donors to mobilise resources; to recipient government to address the health needs of their countries; to drug companies to be prepared to supply anti-malarial treatments and to policy makers to link efforts to combat malaria with existing health initiatives.
SOURCE: British Medical Journal, May 8, 2004.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD