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Malaria Still A Public Health Threat But There Is Optimism


Today is World Malaria Day. On this day many people reflect on the disease that is one of the greatest threats to public health.

Malaria has resurged with a vengeance. Half the world's population is at risk of malaria infection. Approximately 250 million people get sick with malaria each year and nearly a million individuals die -- mostly young children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Craig Jaggers is the policy advisor for health and education at the World Vision International. From Washington, he told VOA’s Douglas Mpuga that although malaria is both preventable and curable, the disease is still a pain to many because people do not have simple and easy solutions. “I think the reality is that many people living in Africa and around the world - the simple and easy solutions are simply inaccessible to them. Part of that is a challenge of resources and opportunities.”

He said the real challenge is that there isn’t enough support to get those vital resources and interventions that people need at the household and community level.

Jaggers said he is encouraged by the commitments made by African countries, citing the Abuja declaration (The African Summit on Roll Back Malaria was held in Abuja, Nigeria on the 25th of April 2000. It reflected a real convergence of political momentum, institutional synergy and technical consensus on malaria (and, to some extent, other infectious diseases issues).

“There are more resources that are certainly needed but we have seen very great progress in making sure the national malaria control plans and their activities within the country are doing a good job.”

He noted the opportunity to work with community-based and faith-based groups, to rely on those local networks, to make sure that all those important and simple solutions get to the household level where the real change is going to happen.

Jagger added that there are things that are being done to control the spread of malaria such as the use of insecticides. “Part of the challenge is DDT has an environmental concern, but what we do know is that the insecticides that they are using currently at the household level are very effective.”

He added, “The international community is doing a lot and we are very encouraged by the progress being shown. We have several billions of dollars that have been committed and followed through. Certainly there is more work to be done; more resources are needed – about $6 billion.”

Jaggers said more resources would make it possible to provide all the necessary services and interventions for malaria. “Things like mosquito treated nets, indoor spraying, and anti-malaria drugs for pregnant women and children.”

He said great progress is happening. “We are very encouraged with what we're seeing - dramatic reductions in morbidity and mortality and death and diseases in places like Rwanda and Zambia. The take home message in essence is that great progress is being achieved but much more needs to be done.”



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