Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Malaria Feared for Many Centuries

Malaria still remains a major health problem alongside tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and is one of the World Health Organisation’s priority diseases and it’s not difficult to understand why.

The meek mosquito may be tiny, but it carries with it one of the worst diseases in the world and kills more people than any other insect.
Malaria is the world’s leading cause of childhood mortality, killing one child every 30 seconds and is an infection caused by a parasite that is carried from person to person through bites by female mosquitoes.
Over 40 percent of the world’s population lives in areas affected by malaria and a million people die every year from its effects, mostly children under five years of age and pregnant women.
Today the world marks the World Malaria Day, which is commemorated annually to provide education and understanding of malaria as a global scourge that is preventable and a disease that is curable.
It was the brainchild of the World Health Assembly at its 60th Session in May 2007 and its mandate to provide an opportunity for countries in the affected regions to learn from each other’s experiences and support each other’s efforts.
This year’s celebrations come at a time when the world is left with less than 250 days to ensure anti-malarial interventions universally.
Malaria infects more than 500 million people per year and kills more than 1 million. Its effects are heavily felt in sub-Saharan Africa but the disease also afflicts Asia and Europe.
In an interview, the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Douglas Mombeshora, said everyone had to participate in the total eradication of malaria.
“I want to encourage everyone to take part in the fight against malaria so as to reduce the number of deaths,” said Dr Mombeshora.
He said Government was making all necessary efforts to stem the malaria scourge.
Dr Mombeshora said they were working with the World Health Organisation to come up with a policy so that everyone even in the remote areas has access to malaria prevention strategies.
“In Zimbabwe we have areas like Binga which are more prone to malaria so we want to make sure that people in these areas are protected,” he said.
Dr Mombeshora said malaria still remained the top killer and had to be dealt with effectively.
He said they were targeting the one mosquito net-one household goal and were working on a management protocol in Malaria.
The ministry is using methods such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying to prevent malaria.
According to a report by the United Nations Educational Fund (UNICEF) much progress has been made in Africa during the 2004 to 2009 period showing a tenfold increase in global malaria funding from external sources to nearly US$1,8 billion. There has been a five-fold increase in global production of insecticide-treated nets to 150 million and over a thirty-fold increase in Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) procurement to 160 million.
However, the proportion of African children receiving an ACT is still low and data on the use of diagnostics is still largely unavailable.
On 25 April 2000, Heads of State and senior representatives from 44 malaria-afflicted countries in Africa came together in Abuja, Nigeria, to attend a milestone Summit on Malaria.
In accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, the Abuja Declaration on Roll back Malaria (RBM) in Africa, the goals contained in the outcome document of the UN Special Session on Children: “A World Fit for Children,” and updated targets 80 percent of malaria patients are diagnosed and treated with effective anti-malarial medicines, for example, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy within one day of the onset of illness.
The RBM partnership is the global framework for co-ordinated action against malaria.
It provides a neutral platform for consensus-building and developing solutions to challenges in the implementation of malaria control interventions and strategies.
By end of year UNICEF aims to ensure that 80 percent of people at risk from malaria are protected using methods such as insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying and, in some settings, other environmental and biological measures.
The partnership promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonising and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives.
The RBM partnership includes governments of countries affected by the disease, representatives of the private sector, research institutions, non-governmental organisations and others.
“Founded by UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank and UNDP and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organisations, the partnership secures policy guidance, financial and technical support for control efforts in countries, and monitors progress towards universal goals.
Two-thirds of all malaria control financing is generated by the Global Fund which was meant to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, with the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the World Bank and other bilateral donors making up the balance of external funding.
Data presented in the report confirms that of the nearly 350 million insecticides treated nets needed to achieve universal coverage, nearly 200 million were received in African countries between 2007 and 2009 and countries have adopted more effective and expensive treatment strategies.
“An update on malaria progress in Africa reveals that some countries have already begun to “count malaria out” while others continue concerted efforts to reach the 2010 coverage targets and reduce malaria deaths by half,” read the report.
The report highlights that while total annual global funding reached approximately US$2 billion by the end of 2009 malaria funding still falls short of the estimated US$6 billion required annually by the Global Malaria Action Plan to ensure universal coverage of malaria control interventions.
Prevention of malaria in endemic areas is focused on the use of preventative medicines for pregnant women and, increasingly, young children. Other methods include mosquito control using insecticides and larvicide’s and the prevention of bites by the use of mosquito nets treated with insecticide.
UNICEF’s partnership with the making pregnancy safer initiative and national antenatal care services helps to ensure women and their newborns access quality antenatal care and reproductive health services, including intermittent preventive treatment against malaria.
Research shows that intermittent preventive treatment for infants may be effective in reducing anaemia and clinical malaria in young children and may soon be provided as part of routine immunisation visits.
By 2015 malaria morbidity and mortality should be reduced by 75 percent in comparison with 2005, not only by national aggregate but also particularly among the poorest groups across all affected countries.
In recognition of its role as one of the biggest killers of children in Africa, malaria prevention and control interventions form an integral component of a minimum package of UNICEF’s high impact maternal and child survival. Intermittent preventive treatment involves providing pregnant women with at least two doses of an anti-malarial drug, currently sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester, whether they show symptoms of infection with malaria or not.
Such preventive treatment has been shown to substantially reduce the risk of anaemia in the mother and low birth weight in the newborn.
Through integrated child survival programming, UNICEF supports national governments and partners for treatment of malaria with the new and highly effective ACTs through static health facilities, and increasingly for treatment of malaria in the home.
The organisation works with governments and communities to improve and promote prompt and effective malaria case management, and to ensure children have access to medication within 24 hours of the onset of illness.
Chloroquine had been the treatment of choice for malaria for several years, although resistance of the malaria-causing parasites to this medicine has made it largely useless today.
There is a range of other drugs available for treatment as well as prevention of malaria and the level of resistance in the country where they are to be used decides their use.
Despite all this, access to medication and the cost of treatment remains a barrier for people living in malaria-affected regions.
The symptoms of malaria include fever, shivering, vomiting and it also leads to anaemia.
If left untreated, malaria can cause coma and death.(source:sunday news)

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