Today is Africa Malaria Day, an annual occasion designed to encourage countries to recommit to reducing deaths from the disease. The observance began in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2000, and is sponsored by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership of the World Health Organization.

One of the organizations taking part is Doctors for Life International, a South Africa-based group that supports the development of herbal anti-malarial medications.  Its spokesperson, Dr. Bola Omoniyi, spoke with Voice of America reporter Cole Mallard from a town near Durban and gave him a progress report on malaria treatment:

?We really haven?t made an improvement in reducing mortality; in fact mortality is on the increase and most of those dying are children and pregnant women.? Dr. Omoniyi says the goals of the ?Roll Back Malaria? program and other similar campaigns have not yet been met. She says with 300 to 500 million people infected every year, the problem is huge.

Dr. Omoniyi says, ?We need to look at a diverse range of approaches? and says the use of herbs to treat malaria effectively has been documented around the world: ?In Africa the majority of people use herbs and plants.? She says even though more documentation is needed, there is evidence that the herbal plant Artemisinin is ?recommended as a first line of treatment by the WHO.? She says this same process can be used in Africa and that herbal remedies can be incorporated into health policies. Dr. Omoniyi says South African scientists have successfully extracted an anti-malarial agent from an indigenous plant, which she says demonstrates that herbs and plants can be developed and should be made available to people in Africa.