UNICEF has just announced the results of surveys that show a major reduction in child mortality between 1990 and 2006. While it appears that immunization programs have contributed the most to this progress, the role of increased malaria intervention is important. According to UNICEF malaria currently accounts for 8% of child deaths worldwide, and to date insecticide treated nets have made the main contribution to mortality reduction. For example at present over 50% of households own at least one ITN in Malawi.Treatment is also becoming an important component, and since the start of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and other partnership efforts is recognized. For example, to date the GFATM has helped to…
- finance 109 million bed nets to protect families from transmission of malaria, thus becoming the largest financier of insecticide-treated bed nets in the world
- deliver 264 million artemisinin-based combination drug treatments for resistant malaria
Dr. Robert Black of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stressed the importance of recognizing regional differences in tackling the challenge of reducing child mortality in the Washington Post. For example pneumonia remains a major force in South Asia, while Malaria is more of a threat to children in sub-Saharan Africa.
As seen in the attached chart from UNICEF at BBC News, child morbidity rates worldwide dropped from 55/1000 live births to 27 between 1990 ans 2006. It is in sub-Saharan Africa where the challenge of child mortality is the highest and where over half of child deaths occur. Malawi, for example, saw a fall in under-five mortality of 29 per cent between 2000 and 2004, and there were reductions of more than 20 per cent in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda and Tanzania. So, while there were reductions in countries surveyed sub-Saharan Africa the problem remains unacceptably high.
We have addressed the issues of financing, partnership and political commitment before, but these are what it takes to solve the malaria problem. These somewhat hopeful results from UNICEF provide a further opportunity to encourage all partners take all actions needed to remove malaria from the list of major child killers in Africa.