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26.04.2008 Health

UNICEF Urges Continued Investment In Combating Malaria

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Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in Ghana yesterday called for the adoption of a multi-pronged approach and continued investment to fight malaria.

He said, using Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), improving hygiene and environmental sanitation and ensuring early treatment of malaria could help prevent the death of many of the 20,000 Ghanaian children who succumb to malaria every year.

This was contained in a statement issued in Accra by UNICEF to mark the African Malaria Day, under the theme: 'Malaria, Disease Without Borders.'

In Ghana, malaria affects 3.5 million people yearly and continues to be the main killer of children.

Globally it affects between 350-500 million people and kills more than one million people every year, mostly children and women.

UNICEF called on governments, corporate bodies, international institutions and civil society groups to unite for an aggressive scale-up of malaria control.

The statement said, '2008 is a year of opportunity to battle against malaria and the achievement of Millennium Development Goal six - which seeks, among other interventions - to stopping and reversing the incidence of malaria.'

UNICEF said, it had supported government in a number of strategic interventions, including the implementation of the national policy that ensured that all pregnant women and children under five years slept under ITNs.

In a concerted effort involving many partners, it said, about 3.5 million ITNs have been distributed to pregnant women and children under five years, in successive campaigns in 2006 and 2007.

It said the challenge now was to ensure that everyone who received an insecticide treated net was sleeping under it.

The statement said UNICEF and its partners had not also relent in efforts to provide safe hygiene and environmental sanitation practices which remained a major factor to help prevent and reduce malaria

Furthermore, it said, UNICEF and WHO, with support from the Gates Foundation was piloting the Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Infants (IPTI) strategy in six countries, which include Ghana, Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi and Senegal.

IPTI is the treatment of children with preventive doses of anti-malaria drugs.

UNICEF stated that three studies conducted in Ghana showed promising results of preventing 35 per cent of malaria cases among children.

It said an operational study was also currently ongoing in the Upper East Region since October 2006, and about 150,000 doses of the anti-malaria drugs have been provided to children during routine immunization at vaccination clinics.

Meanwhile the Government's National Malaria Control Programme supported by the USA Presidential Malaria Initiative is piloting Indoor Residential Spraying in 100,000 households in five districts in the Northern Region, it added.

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