World Malaria Day is time for hope, and the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is not disappointing. The BBC reports that, “In a video message for a UN World Malaria Day event, the Secretary-General announces an initiative offering household sprays and bed nets treated with insecticide “to all people at risk, especially women and children in Africa” by the end of 2010.”
This is an almost unbelievable though desirable goal, much over the 80% RBM targets for 2010. The Secretary-General prefers to call this goal “bold, but achievable.” Even with help from GFATM, PMI, the World Bank Booster program, UNITAID and others, many countries are struggling to meet the 2005 target of 60% coverage of vulnerable populations with ITNs and medicines. The new UN malaria envoy, Ray Chambers has done the math –
- 500 million additional people
- 250 million additional ITNs/LLINs
- less than 1,000 days to achieve this
- “That’s four-to-five times what we’ve done in the past”
While this effort will push us toward eradication, Chambers is realistic in stating that the goal of complete elimination of the disease will depend on vaccine development, which is still some years away.
Reuters News also adds a note of realism by quoting a statement from the U.S. National Institutes of Health which said that malaria has proven to be “remarkably resilient, resurging because of the emergence of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes.” Reuters also mentions the unknowns created by global warming for consideration. These concerns add a sense of urgency that simple mentioning of 2010 may not confer.
Ironically, targeting these new malaria intervention and coverage goals comes on the heels of concern that African countries, where malaria is endemic, are unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which include malaria reduction. Clearly there are serious challenges in terms of finance and health systems issues to achieving universal overage in under 1,000 days – we hope all partners will heed this challenge on World Malaria Day and work together to meet it.