News / Africa

New Report Says Investment in Malaria Prevention Pays Off

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Lauren Comiteau

A new report by health experts at several top universities in the United States and the World Health Organization says money spent on programs to prevent malaria work and have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in 34 African countries over the last 10 years.  Details were released Tuesday.  

The World Health Organization says malaria kills nearly a million people a year, mostly in Africa, where one in five childhood deaths is related to malaria.

But a new report by leading health experts says increased funding for malaria prevention has made a real difference. It says money spent on insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying and preventative medicine, especially for pregnant women, saved some 736,000 children over the last 10 years. And it predicts millions more will live if funding levels remain stable or increase.

The former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, is a long-time advocate for malaria prevention.

"Where progress is made in fighting malaria, money and beds and healthcare workers are freed up to take on other challenges but it goes beyond saving healthcare resources," said Mark Green. "Studies show that scaling up malaria interventions would increase economic output in Africa by as much as $30 billion."

The report's findings are based on data gathered using a computer-based tool that tracked the impact of malaria prevention efforts on child survival from the years 2001 to 2009.  Gathering this kind of data has been challenging in Africa and having it helps when fundraising in tough economic times.

"People are looking for things that work, that are measurable, that are verifiable," said Green. "People are generous, but they want to know that the resources that are being allocated are in fact making a difference. And what this report shows to me is precisely that."

The report notes that the number of rural households protected by insecticide-treated bed nets and the indoor spraying of insecticides has increased significantly, tracking alongside the rise in funding and the increased political will to fight the disease.

Dr. Halima Mwenesi is a long-time malaria field worker in Kenya. She says she's truly hopeful for the first time in years.

"We are seeing some accelerated progress now with all the resources that have come in in the last five years especially," said Dr. Mwenesi. "There is huge, huge progress."

The release of the report comes as world leaders head to the United Nations next week to review the so-called Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing global poverty by 2015.   Three of the goals relate directly to malaria - reducing child mortality, maternal mortality and infectious diseases, including malaria.

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