The World Health Organization (WHO) says a malaria control program in Vietnam has reduced the number of cases by 90 percent. The UN's health arm says a five year experiment in a Vietnamese village shows that malaria can be controlled with a few simple steps.
The World Health Organization says a combination of strategies was used to prevent and control malaria in the village, Phan Tien, in southern Vietnam.
It says people in the community were provided with insecticide-treated bed nets, or mosquito nets. And a community-based primary healthcare system was set up to provide early diagnosis and prompt treatment.
The senior advisor in WHO's Roll Back Malaria program, Kamini Mendis, says community participation is important for the success of any malaria control program, especially in rural areas where health services often are not available.
"They just cannot reach the formal health institutions in time, soon enough to save a child from death, for example," she said. "So they need to first know that this disease can be prevented. So they need to have access to bed nets. They can, among communities themselves, they can appoint people who can be given the responsibility of having malaria drugs, and they have been given training by the country."
The World Health Organization estimates there are 300-500 million cases of malaria worldwide every year. About one million people, mainly children, die from the disease, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Mendis says there has been a steep decline in malaria cases throughout Vietnam. She says this is because communities in endemic areas across the country are implementing a program similar to that used in Phan Tien.
She says there is nothing magical about the strategy, and she says the World Health Organization believes it also can be used successfully in Africa and other malaria-infested parts of the world.
"Because malaria is much more intense in Africa, it will be more difficult to achieve a dramatic success, like reducing malaria to the extent that we saw in that village in Vietnam," she admitted. "However, these interventions have been shown and proven to have effect in Africa almost just as much. For example, when children are made to sleep under bed nets, it can reduce the death rates due to malaria by about 25 to 30 percent."
WHO malaria expert Kamini Mendis says a study conducted in Ethiopia shows that, when mothers were trained to recognize malaria and give the necessary medicines, 50 percent fewer children died from the disease.