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Experts in Cameroon for World Malaria Conference

Experts and policy-makers from around the world have come to Cameroon for what is expected to be the world's-largest conference dedicated to malaria. The week-long event is expected to tackle the main obstacles to eliminating the deadly illness, which remains one of Africa's main killers.

About 1,500 doctors, scientists and experts are expected to attend the Pan-African Malaria Conference in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde.

The event, held every two years, is being organized by the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria, a global alliance of organizations, aiming to strengthen African malaria research capacities.

This year, in its fourth edition, organizer Wilfred Mbacham says the meeting is going a step further, inviting government ministers and health workers with the goal of coordinating prevention and treatment efforts.

"For the first time, the Malaria Week in Cameroon is bring together scientists and people who are also involved in control and policy," he said. "So, I think that its a very meaningful event. "

Conference participants are discussing, among other topics, new drug treatment methods, prevention techniques and the development of a malaria vaccine.

Africa accounts for as much as 90-percent of the world's malaria cases. Economic factors have aggravated the crisis, as many people in the continent's developing countries cannot afford treatment. The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria estimates that an African child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.

But Professor Mbacham says, despite the severity of the disease in Africa and its crippling impact on development, there is still hope.

"I think, increasingly, we are seeing a second wave of interest and funding from developed nations. And, I think that that is a great impetus, given that, ultimately, the world has gone global," he added. "So, diseases no longer reside in a particular locality."

The deputy director of the London-based Gates Malaria Partnership, Geoffrey Targett, says he agrees.

"For, a lot of people do not fully appreciate how devastating malaria really is. They have a better understanding of things like HIV/AIDS. For many people, malaria is something that is distant. But, finally, I think, we have been able to get these messages across," said Mr. Targett. "This is a responsibility that we have."

The Gates Partnership was created four-years ago with an original $40 million grant from American computer magnate Bill Gates. Mr. Targett says recently approved new grants will allow even more programs in Africa to receive funding.

But though donor countries will need to play an important role in the fight against malaria, Mr. Targett says, African nations need to do their part, too. He says he is encouraged by what he sees.

"If you look at the program, and it is a very large program, the overwhelming majority of the people presenting work are from Africa," added Mr. Targett. "That is really a very positive move."

The Pan-African Malaria Conference runs through Friday.