African leaders start drive to eradicate malaria

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), consisting of leaders of 26 African countries, are beginning a drive to eradicate malaria from the continent by distributing medication, insecticides, and bed nets.

US$100 million worth of funds will be given out to battle the disease in endemic nations; the budget was announced yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Ray Chambers, a special envoy for malaria with the United Nations, commented on the push, saying: "We believe that if we cover everybody in Africa with bed nets, insecticides and medication by the end of this year, we will have zero deaths or near zero deaths from malaria in Africa by 2015." A statement from Chambers said the funds will be provided by the US President's Malaria Initiative.

The statement continued: "The new US funding comes as ALMA finalises a bulk purchase of long lasting insecticidal nets. This bulk purchase of 50 million long lasting insecticidal nets by twelve African nations will reduce costs and streamline procurement and distribution, accelerating the rate at which nets will begin reaching risk populations [...] African leaders, working together with friends of ALMA, are forging the African-led response needed to solve one of Africa’s most severe health challenges."

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, in comments to the World Economic Forum, said that the same strategy had lowered the incidence of malaria in Zanzibar from 40% to 1%.

According to health experts, use of nets can lower the spread of malaria by 50%, and cut child deaths by a fifth.

Malaria, a disease spread to humans through infected mosquitoes, costs Africa more than $40 billion annually in sick days and treatment, according to the Reuters news service.