An official website of the United States government

“Massive Scale-Up” on Malaria Reduces Child Deaths
April 25, 2012

By Charlene Porter
IIP Staff Writer
April 24, 2012

A young girl dances on a bed
A Senegalese girl dances during a bed net distribution event. Insecticide-treated nets from PMI and other donors can prevent bites from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will recognize World Malaria Day April 25 by presenting the U.S. Congress with a report documenting substantial progress in reducing deaths from malaria as a result of increased investment by the United States and others in the global anti-malaria campaign.

“Mortality in children under 5 years of age has fallen dramatically across sub-Saharan Africa in association with a massive scale-up of malaria control efforts,” according to the Sixth Annual Report to Congress on the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a U.S. program begun in 2006.

The program targeted 15 high-risk countries in sub-Saharan Africa with malaria control efforts such as insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets, indoor residual spraying, improved diagnostic tests and malaria medications.

Nationwide household surveys conducted in most of the targeted countries show significant turnarounds in the mortality rate from all causes of death in children under 5. Rwanda showed the most significant progress, with a 50 percent decline in the number of child deaths. Senegal was next with a 40 percent reduction.

Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia also reported fewer malaria-related deaths of small children.

Children are of special concern because they have less chance of surviving the disease. Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2010, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occurred in Africa, mostly among children under 5 years of age.

The expansion of malaria prevention through the PMI and other global partnerships has reached tens of millions of people living in regions where the parasite thrives. USAID’s report to Congress presents these results:

•  PMI spraying programs protected more than 28 million people in 2011.

•  PMI has procured more than 59 million bed nets and distributed more than 31 million since 2006.

•  More than 92 million anti-malarial treatments have been distributed in the program’s six years.

In 2011 PMI entered new territory, implementing malaria control activities in Guinea and Zimbabwe, while expanding programs in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nineteen African countries are targeted by the PMI program, as well as the Greater Mekong region, including Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Yunnan, China.

“Malaria prevention and control is a major focus of U.S. government foreign assistance objectives,” according to the PMI report to Congress. President George W. Bush boosted the U.S. commitment to fighting this infectious disease with a five-year, $1.27 billion funding increase starting in 2006. The U.S. Congress increased the investment with another five-year, $5 billion funding commitment in 2008.

USAID provides further funding for malaria programs in Burkina Faso, Burundi and South Sudan, and in the Amazon Malaria Initiative, provides malaria support in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname.

Commemoration of World Malaria Day on April 25 recognizes the date in 2000 when 44 African leaders met in Nigeria and committed their countries to cutting malaria-related deaths in half by 2010. “In the decade since, increased funding and control efforts have led to a scale-up of effective malaria interventions, resulting in decreased malaria morbidity and mortality in many countries,” according to the World Health Organization’s materials about the occasion.

In 2010, an estimated 216 million cases of malaria and 655,000 deaths were recorded worldwide, WHO reports, a 17 percent decrease in malaria incidence and 25 percent reduction in global malaria mortality since 2000.

On World Malaria Day 2012, WHO promotes the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” emphasizing the need to consolidate the gains made against the disease and the need for sustained support for malaria interventions.

The PMI report to Congress strikes a similar chord. “The gains are fragile, and the global malaria partnership must remain vigilant to potential threats,” it says. Those threats include the potential for increasing resistance to malaria drugs, and resistance to the insecticides that have been effective in eliminating mosquitoes.

The PMI is part of a larger global health strategy, based on the finding that U.S. health is intertwined with world health. The Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative is engaged in a wide array of programs and investments in health issues in approximately 80 countries worldwide, building partnerships with other governments to improve health for citizens and the capacity of their governments to operate health programs. The Global Health Initiative aims to make substantial progress in reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, at the same time improving maternal and child health, global nutrition and family planning.