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04.03.2009 Health

UN report says African countries almost halfway to malaria milestone


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has received a report from his Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, citing important progress towards achieving the goal of providing all endemic African countries with malaria control interventions by the end of 2010.

However, the report emphasises that a more intensive effort will be needed to meet the Secretary-General's deadline.

A statement from the UN Information Centre in Accra on Wednesday quoted the report as saying more than 40 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa now had access to long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets (LLINs), compared to less than 10 per cent in 2005.

It said more than 140 million mosquito nets had been distributed to date, offering protection to nearly 300 million people with each net offering protection for two people.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the epicentre of the world's malaria control activities, with over 90 per cent of malaria deaths occurring on the continent.

This new report coincides with the one-year anniversary of Mr Chambers' appointment as the first Special Envoy for Malaria and commends the Secretary-General for leading the global malaria effort.

“At this moment, we can point to definite indicators of progress, with data revealing that LLINs now have been distributed to more than 40 per cent of the population in endemic African nations,” Mr. Chambers said.

“This signifies perhaps the most encouraging development in a year that featured many noteworthy accomplishments.”

The report, which also underscores last year's announcement that the world can reach near-zero deaths from malaria by 2015, stresses that while malaria-related objectives are within sight, a failure to increase momentum further still will result in falling short of targets.

Noting that only 671 days remain until the Secretary-General's deadline for universal coverage, Mr Chambers observes, “At this unique moment in history, when dedicated leadership, proven interventions, available resources and collective will have converged to turn the tide against this scourge, we cannot permit complacency to dull our resolve”.

Mr Chambers adds: “Over 140 million LLINs have been distributed over the past three years,” and African countries are making the necessary preparations for the “over 240 million LLINs already financed for delivery between now and December 2010”.

He emphasises that the “same thought and energy that guided LLINs in 2008” will govern efforts pertaining to other essential interventions, such as treatment in public health facilities, the provision of rapid diagnostic tests and the production of an adequate number of antimalarial medicines - artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

The Special Envoy encourages an augmentation of current initiatives to ensure the completion of the Secretary-General's mission, including the fulfilment of financial commitments made by donors.

Along with funding and implementation partners, Mr Chambers will track key indicators on a quarterly basis, exposing advances and impediments alike, in an effort to overcome obstacles and maximize efficiency.