by Charlene Porter,
Washington – More young children in Africa are surviving or avoiding malaria since U.S. and international health agencies began scaling up efforts to combat this potentially fatal disease.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released an annual survey of its anti-malaria push in time for World Malaria Day April 25.
It calculates that 150,000 fewer deaths from malaria occurred in 2010 than in 2005. Given the high concentration of cases among children in sub-Saharan Africa, USAID estimates that 485 children are saved from succumbing to the mosquito-borne disease each day.
The United States launched the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) in 2006, targeting 15 African nations where the disease was especially severe. The campaign boosts resources devoted to prevention of the disease through wider distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and insecticide spraying in dwellings. Easier access to anti-malarial medicines and better training for more health-care workers are further aspects of the program. PMI has been expanded to include two more African nations, and a program is being launched in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia where some drug-resistant forms of the disease have appeared.
Following are some of the milestones noted in the fifth annual report tracking the progress of the President’s Malaria Initiative:
. In seven focus countries where surveys have been conducted, mortality in children under the age of 5 has dropped by 23 percent to 36 percent.
. More than 27 million people were protected by in-home insecticide spraying in 2010 alone.
. More than 30 million insecticide-treated bed nets have been distributed by the campaign. Another 15.5 million have been acquired by other international health groups and distributed in partnership with PMI.
. More than 67 million treatments of artemisinin combination therapies
(ACTs) have been distributed to health facilities. This is considered the most effective medicine available to treat most malaria cases, and is 95 percent effective.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention oversees the U.S.
initiative, along with USAID. The PMI campaign works in concert with a number of other health initiatives and agencies, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control; national governments in focus countries; and other multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations and foundations.
Almost 250 million people worldwide were infected with malaria in 2008, according to the World Health Organization, and 1 million died as a result of the disease. About half of the world’s population lives in areas where they risk exposure to the disease. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, but Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected. In 2008, WHO says, malaria was present in 108 countries and territories.