Malaria Deaths Can Be Eradicated Says UN Envoy

Malaria Deaths Can Be Eradicated Says UN Envoy
We can eradicate deaths from malaria if we build on gains and work hard to reach the goal of near zero deaths by 2015 an envoy of the United Nations told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday, World Malaria Day.

Ray Chambers, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy for Malaria told reporters:

"Our goal is to reach close to zero deaths from malaria by 2015."

"There is much work to be done - many hurdles - but we are optimistic that we can achieve that goal," said Chambers, who Ban described as a "philanthropist and humanitarian who has directed most of his efforts towards at-risk youth" when he appointed the American in February 2008.

Chambers' message follows the Secretary General's plea last week for the world to step up its existing efforts if the goal of near zero deaths is to be attained by 2015. Dramatic results have been achieved, but "we need to ensure universal coverage for all people at risk," said Ban.

Malaria, a disease that infects humans bitten by parasite-carrying mosquitoes, is preventable and curable, but it currently kills nearly 800,000 people every year, most of them in Africa, where a child dies every 45 seconds from the disease.

According to UNICEF, the UN charity for children's rights, fighting malaria does more than save children's lives, it brings health and economic benefits, eases the burden on health systems, improves the health of pregnant women and young children, and reduces deaths from malnutrition.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said the challenge was to protect every child who is at risk, whether it is giving them effective treatment, insecticide-treated bed nets, or proper diagnosis:

"We cannot leave some children exposed to malaria and other children safe," urged Lake.

Chambers told the press that global initiatives are making progress in the fight against the disease: 11 African countries where the disease is endemic are now reporting a 50% fall in deaths, he said, adding that the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar reported no deaths from malaria when he visited there last year.

In a separate statement he issued with the Roll Back Malaria partnership, Chambers, said:

"The Secretary-General's malaria goals have galvanized funding and implementing partners, together with African leaders and others at the forefront of the effort, and the results of this partnership are translating directly into lives saved in historic proportions."

The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership, which includes Chambers' office, is the global framework that coordinates action against malaria. There are over 500 partners in the RBM, including countries where malaria is endemic, development partners, private sector members, nongovernment and community organizations, foundations, academic and research centres.