World Malaria Day: Celebrating Progress Against a Preventable and Curable Disease

Posted by Timothy Ziemer
April 25, 2011
Children Smile From Beneath Mosquito Netting

Over the past four years I have had the privilege of serving as Coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative. The initiative is led by USAID and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our goal is to reduce malaria illnesses and death by half for 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub Saharan Africa, and to remove the disease as a major public health threat by 2015

I also oversee two regional malaria programs outside of Africa. The Amazon Malaria Initiative covers seven countries making up the Amazon Basin of South America, and the Mekong Malaria Program covers five countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region of Southeast Asia. In both of these areas, multi-drug resistance is a major problem.

I am fortunate to work with a talented group of technical staff and public health experts who implement U.S. global malaria programs. The incredible progress we have made against malaria is due in large part to effective partnerships with host governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank Booster Program for Malaria Control, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Malaria, as well as other non-governmental and private organizations too numerous to count.

Now, five years into the Initiative, we are seeing substantial reductions in deaths in children under the age of five years, and we are seeing improvements in malaria-specific indicators in all PMI-supported countries where baseline and follow-up nationwide household surveys were conducted. These reductions are due in large part to a dramatic scale-up of malaria prevention and treatment measures since 2005, thanks to the collective efforts of national governments, other international donors, and multilateral and nongovernmental organizations.

PMI relies on a four-pronged, proven approach to prevent and treat malaria: the correct use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets above sleeping spaces; indoor spraying with insecticides; intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women; and timely use of artemisinin-based combination therapies for those who have been diagnosed with malaria. Malaria is one of today's best investments in global health; globally, these interventions are saving the lives of 485 children each day.

Each year, World Malaria Day is observed on April 25 to call attention to the disease and to mobilize action to combat it. It's heartening to see the progress that has been made in delivering malaria prevention tools to those at risk of malaria and providing treatment to those with confirmed malaria. Progress against malaria is one of development's most impressive stories. On this occasion, PMI releases its fifth annual report, which describes the role and contributions of the U.S. government in the effort to reduce the burden of malaria in Africa.

Despite considerable progress, malaria remains a major public health problem on the African continent, with about 80 percent of malaria deaths occurring in African children under five years of age. However, over the past 50 years the U.S government has been a major player in coordinated global efforts to beat back major killers like smallpox, polio, and measles. So, with sufficient and sustained international commitment, we can continue to achieve sustainable progress in our fight against malaria.

To learn more about PMI, visit www.pmi.gov.

Editor's Note: This entry first appeared on USAID's Impactblog.

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