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UN Launches New Malaria Treatment in Burundi - 2003-11-12

The United Nations has launched a new malaria treatment in Burundi.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Children's Fund released the new drugs in Burundi because about half of the six million people in the country have malaria.

A health officer with UNICEF in Burundi, Daniel Verna, says tests show this new drug combination should be much more effective than the standard treatments.

"We have high level of resistance with chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine," he said. "So with this drug, we do not have yet resistance and this drug is giving good results." Mr. Verna says studies indicate the new drugs, called artesunate and amodiaquine, should have a 95 percent effectiveness rate.

He says the drugs were developed specifically to address the malaria epidemic in Burundi.

"Two years ago, we had one of the worst epidemics in Africa," said Daniel Verna. "From that, we started to do studies to test what we were using and we realized that the level of resistance was so high that we had to change."

UNICEF and the World Health Organization are working with the Burundi government to distribute the treatment, which is being sponsored by several donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development.

UNICEF says more than 360 health care workers across the country were trained in the use of the treatment before it was released Monday. The new drug combination is also being released on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.