Progress against malaria

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Malaria is still one of the leading causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa, but great progress is being made. According to the organization Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), the incidence of malaria and malarial deaths has recently fallen by over 90 percent in several southern African countries.

The recent decline is no small feat, given that malaria once killed over one million people each year mostly children under five and pregnant women. And as AFM points out, the tools for eradication of the disease do exist; the crucial step is to implement and sustain those strategies. Success thus far has been the result of residual spraying of tiny amounts of safe and effective insecticides including DDT in homes, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved diagnosis of the disease, and improved access to malaria medications. These tactics must be applied assiduously, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. As we have, very unfortunately, seen before, when these measures slacken, the disease makes a resurgence.

This week, twelve Southern African Development Community health ministers are meeting to discuss how to bolster efforts to eradicate malaria. AFM advocates a focus on the tactics that have thus far been successful, but they re concerned about the availability of DDT, which, when sprayed in small amounts in people s homes, has had a remarkable effect on the incidence of malaria. Lately, availability of this important World Health Organization-approved insecticide has been falling. To counter this, AFM advises considering local formulation, as well as the possibility of alternatives that could address the increasingly urgent problem of insecticide resistance. Richard Kamwi, writing for AFM, observes that there has not been a new class of public health insecticide for almost 30 years. He would like to remedy this: We must work urgently with our donor partners, research institutes, philanthropists and the private sector, he says, to develop new anti-mosquito tools to ensure people are protected from mosquitoes now and well into the future.