European Alliance Aims to Rid the World of Malaria | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.04.2007
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European Alliance Aims to Rid the World of Malaria

Ten organizations from five European countries have joined forces to put an end to the scourge of malaria within a few years. Money is the key to success.

Mosquito nets are one way to halt malaria infection, but much more could be done

Mosquito nets are one way to halt malaria infection, but much more could be done

"Our vision is a world free of malaria within the next couple of years," said Jörg Maas, the foundation's executive director, at the launch of the European Alliance Against Malaria in Berlin. The organizations started the initiative "to encourage donor governments, particularly in Europe and the north, to provide more funding for the fight against malaria," he said.

The alliance is made up of 10 organizations from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain, and includes the German Red Cross and the German Foundation for World Population.

Malaria remains a major problem, especially for the world's children. The mosquito-borne disease kills up to three million people each year. The vast majority of those deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly among children under the age of five.

The disease is also a huge barrier to development. In Africa alone, malaria is thought to cause an estimated $12 billion in lost GDP each year.

At the same time, simple preventive measures could drastically reduce the number of malaria cases. The use of bed nets treated with insecticide could bring about a 25 percent fall in mortality.

More to be done

A key measure to quell the spread of the disease is the use of insecticide-treated bed nets. They prevent mosquitoes carrying the disease from biting people and can reduce mortality by up to 25 percent alone for the cost of about $10 (7 euros) per net.
Insektizid DDT gegen Malaria-Erreger versprüht

Insecticide keeps mosquitos away

The German Red Cross distributed 18,000 mosquito nets in Sudan in December, but sending thousands of bed nets to Africa wasn't enough, said Rudolf Seiters, the organization's head. People also needed to be shown how to use the nets effectively.

Other means to fight the disease could be improved.

"We need to make sure drugs to treat malaria are the most effective ones available to reduce death," Peter Salama, head of global health at the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF, told DW-RADIO.

New combined treatments for malaria were developed in the 1990s in response to a resurgence of the disease and mounting evidence that the parasite carried by the mosquito was growing resistant to traditional "monotherapies" like chloroquine.

Since then, funding for combined treatments has increased significantly through bilateral and multilateral aid, corporate assistance, and national government programs in malarial countries. But difficulties in the drug purchase and delivery processes as well as distribution of mosquito nets persist.

Combined efforts

Indeed, the main hindrance to eradicating the disease is a lack of money.

"There's a global requirement of about $3 billion a year to scale up those interventions… and currently we have way below $1 billion per year for malaria resources," said Salama. "So we really have a critical gap there of more than $2 billion a year."

That's where the European Alliance Against Malaria could make a difference. Closer coordination between European governments could yield lasting results in the fight against malaria.

"All the means necessary to eradicate malaria are already available, but the quality of strategy is not good enough to reach the goal," said the project's coordinator, Stecy Yghemonos. "So we think if European governments are more focused on the strategy, the situation can really be improved."

Malaria Plakat in Afrika

Forty percent of the world population is threatened by malaria

Improved strategy means not only increasing the overall amount of funding, but also ensuring the money is spent on the most effective programs, and sent where it's most needed.

Taking responsibility

At the launch, Germany's development minister was critical of rich counties' efforts to fight the disease.

"If malaria was a disease that was an immediate threat to the industrial countries, I'm very sure that there would already be the appropriate medication that could be quickly employed," Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said at the launch.

"But so far, malaria is a disease that mainly effects developing countries and that's why it's important that we draw attention to this situation and that we live up to our responsibility, for we cannot leave people in these countries alone with this situation."

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