Accessibility links

Experts See Progress in Fight Against Malaria

After a week of meetings and seminars on malaria, top researchers, donor organizations, and policy makers say some progress has been made in fighting the disease. But African countries are falling well short of goals to reduce malaria deaths.

Six days of talks dedicated exclusively to malaria in Africa ended Saturday with a forum to evaluate the state of the fight against the disease.

During the week, researchers unveiled promising trial results for a possible future vaccine, scientists put forward new options for drug therapy and prevention, and donor groups launched several partnerships to help fund malaria research in Africa.

But experts say, in other important areas, much work still remains.

Five years ago, African heads of state came together in Nigeria's capital Abuja to lay the groundwork for a continent-wide campaign to cut the number of malaria deaths in half by 2010.

As much as 90 percent of the estimated one to three million annual deaths from the disease occur in Africa. Experts say, on average, one child in Africa is killed every 30 seconds.

But halfway to the target date, African countries are falling well short of preliminary goals. London based group Massive Effort Campaigns malaria advocate, Louis Da Gama says with the recent rise in attention being focused on malaria, there is no excuse for the lack of progress.

"An African baby must be worth more than $1.75. I cannot accept that 3,000 of them die every day because there mothers do not have $1.75 to buy the drugs," said Louis Da Gama. "There is funding there. There is funding to buy those drugs today."

Despite, being behind schedule, one of the organizers of this week's Pan-African Malaria Conference, Professor Vincent Titanji, says he still has hope the 2010 target can be met.

"It is still feasible for us to meet the Abuja goals," he said. "But, there is a big, but more resources, more focus, greater mobilization must be put in right now. Otherwise, I am afraid those goals will not be met."

He says a recent decision to move the headquarters of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria, or MIM, to Tanzania is a step forward. MIM is the organization responsible for coordinating the fight against malaria. This is the first time it will be based in Africa.

"The African institutions will now take over the work and continue, intensify, and expand the collaboration with their foreign partners," he said.

This week's Pan-African Malaria Conference is the fourth of its kind. Organizers say about 1,800 experts and government officials participated in the event that is held every two years, making it the largest conference on malaria.