mosquito-net-by-who.jpgA World Health Organization report released yesterday confirmed a reversal in the course of malaria, with far fewer children dying from the disease. The UN organization documented the increased use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and better treatment across sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur.

More than 140 million long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets were delivered to the region between 2006 and 2008, protecting over 280 million lives, and doubling the number of households in Africa with access to a net.

“The 2009 WHO World Malaria Report demonstrates that we are succeeding in the global campaign to end deaths from a disease that takes the lives over one million people each year,” said Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria. “Thanks to unprecedented levels of funding and extraordinary collaboration among partners, the malaria community has achieved remarkable progress.”

“The report shows an encouraging number of African countries reducing malaria deaths and cases by more than 50 percent since 2000,” he added.

Even more encouraging is the “transformative” progress made in 2009 in countries like Nigeria, where close to half of the population now has access to a mosquito net. A month-by-month distribution strategy has been established to ensure universal coverage is achieved by the end of 2010. Nets will be delivered across Nigeria’s 36 states to reach all of the country’s population of 151 million, where one quarter of the world’s malaria deaths occur.

Ensuring universal access to malaria-control tools – insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and effective medication – by 2010 is critical for all countries to reach the Secretary-General’s goal of near-zero global malaria deaths by 2015.

“The proficiency with which the government is closing in on malaria is a bold statement that across sub-Saharan Africa, the Secretary-General’s goal is achievable,” said Mr. Chambers.

“All nations who feel that the challenge may be too daunting can look to Nigeria and understand that rapid progress is possible,” he added.

Nigeria is working to achieve funding for all 70 million nets needed for universal coverage there. Some 60 million nets have already been funded thanks to resources from, among others, the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank.

The country is also working to mobilize communities to assist in the deliver of the nets and to encourage the use of such life-saving tools.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, malaria has been on the decline but a “final push” toward universal coverage of prevention and treatment is needed to protect the gains made, according to the Special Envoy’s office, which added that the country is facing a shortage of funding for 11 million nets that must be addressed.

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