‘More than 650 000’ malaria deaths last year

2011-12-13 14:30

Geneva – Malaria caused the death of an estimated 655 000 people last year, with 86% of victims children aged under five, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures released today.

The figure marked a 5% drop in deaths from 2009.

Africa accounted for 91% of deaths and 81% of the 216 million cases worldwide last year.

In its yearly World Malaria Report for this year, the WHO hailed as a “major achievement” a 26% fall in mortality rates since 2000 despite being well short of its 50% target.

The UN health agency aims to eradicate malaria deaths altogether by the end of 2015 and reduce the number of cases by 75% on 2000 levels.

International funding for the fight against malaria peaked at $2 billion (R16.5 billion) this year but the WHO estimates $5 billion will be needed each year until 2015 if its targets are to be reached.

The cash has funded an big increase in the number of households with insecticide-treated mosquito nets, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where 50% now have the nets compared with just 3% in 2000.

To finance the fight, the WHO suggested a tax on financial transactions or the rolling out of a tax on airline journeys which it said, if extended to other countries, could generate significant extra funds.

“Other country-specific schemes, such as tourist taxes, may offer opportunities to raise funds for control programmes in malaria endemic countries,” the report said.

WHO director general Margaret Chan welcomed the “significant and durable” progress in the fight against malaria but said parasite resistance to drugs was causing concern in parts of South-east Asia.

“Parasite resistance to antimalarial medicines remains a real and ever-present danger to our continued success,” said Chan.

“There is an urgent need to develop an Asia-wide framework to ensure sustained and coordinated action against this public health threat.”

According to the WHO, malaria is endemic in 106 countries and is currently transmitted in 99 of them.
Of the 99, 43 recorded a fall in reported cases of more than 50% between 2000 and last year.

Six countries account for 60% of deaths from Malaria: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkino Faso, Mozambique, Ivory Coast and Mali.

Europe had an estimated 176 cases of malaria in 2010 with no reported deaths.

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