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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Infections -

Drug shortage, delays in Africa, slow malaria drive

InfectionsMay 03, 05

A shortage of drugs and funds and delays in distributing mosquito nets in Africa are hampering a campaign to reduce Malaria’s annual death toll of one million worldwide, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Some 350 million to 500 million people in more than 100 countries each year catch the deadly disease, which can kill in hours, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in their World Malaria Report 2005.

The joint report follows a scathing editorial in The Lancet medical journal last month accusing an international partnership of more than 90 organisations and countries of failing to control malaria, saying they may have done more harm than good.

The Roll Back Malaria partnership (RBM), which includes the WHO and World Bank, was set up in 1998 to coordinate the fight against the mosquito-borne disease. Its goal is to halve malaria mortality by 2010 and again by 2015.

Africa is the hardest-hit region, with 80 percent of deaths worldwide, the majority south of the Sahara where the most deadly species of the malaria parasite thrives, the report said.

“Malaria remains the infectious disease that takes more lives of children in Africa than any other - three times as many as HIV infection,” said the new UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman, a former U.S. agriculture secretary.

The U.N. report said that donors were only providing a fifth of an estimated $3.2 billion needed each year to meet its goals.


Nevertheless, there was “clear evidence of successful control efforts” in many countries, citing wider distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.

But many African countries had only recently increased access to treatment and prevention, making it “too soon” to say whether the global burden of malaria had increased or decreased since 2000, according to the report.

“Not until several years after high coverage with malaria prevention and treatment has been achieved will the worldwide impact on mortality be measurable,” it said.

Insecticide-treated bednets and the latest combination therapy (ACT) drugs, based on the traditional Chinese herbal medicine artemisinin, “must reach many more people before we can have a real impact on malaria”, WHO director general Lee Jong-Wook said.

Malaria “kills at least one million people a year, yet it is treatable and largely preventable with the tools available now”, he said.

Swiss drug maker Novartis, which is providing its ACT drug Coartem at cost for use in developing countries, announced in November that its Chinese suppliers of the main ingredient, were unable to deliver enough this year.

It would only be able to make 30 million doses in 2005, half of the expected global demand.

The U.N. agencies said on Tuesday that the recent shortage of artemisinin-based drugs had “hindered efforts to reduce the impact of the disease.”

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