Malaria is in retreat in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa after a huge effort in the last two years to get bed nets and indoor spraying into areas where the disease is endemic, but the gains are fragile, according to the World Health Organisation.
Malaria cases or hospital admissions and deaths have been cut by half in 11 African countries over the past decade, the WHO's world malaria report shows. Outside Africa, in 32 of the 56 remaining malaria endemic countries, the gains have been even greater. Eight more countries have seen reductions in the number of cases of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent. Last year Morocco and Turkmenistan were certified malaria-free.
“The results set out in this report are the best seen in decades,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “After so many years of deterioration and stagnation in the malaria situation, countries and their development partners are now on the offensive. Current strategies work.”
A huge push to get insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) to families in malaria-ridden countries over the past three years, involving U.N. agencies, governments, charities and celebrities, will have supplied approximately 289m nets to sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2010, which is enough to protect 578 million people — 76 per cent of the 765 million at risk.
Indoor insecticide spraying has protected 75 million people, or 10 per cent, of those at risk in 2009.
Many more people now have access to the best drug treatment — artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs).
But what the WHO calls the fragility of the gains is clear. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010