Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New report charts progress against malaria

The United Nations led Roll Back Malaria and UNICEF have released a report that shows the progress on fighting malaria. The report says that 150 million malaria preventing bed nets have been produced. If all of those bed nets have been distributed, it will meet the United Nations' Millennium Development Goal against malaria.

The report also says that donors have put up 1.8 billion dollars to fight the disease last year. In addition, 160 million malaria fighting drugs have been produced, again we don't know if all of those have been actually used.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Google News, Maria Cheng gathers some reaction to the report.

"These are meaningless input measures that tell us only (the UN) is effective at spending other people's money," said Philip Stevens, a health-policy expert at the London think tank International Policy Network.

Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, an Africa and US-based advocacy group, said measuring malaria spending and the numbers of drugs bought did not always mean more Africans had access to them.

Tren said he had once been in Uganda when the central warehouse had plenty of malaria drugs but clinics throughout the country had none. "They had no trucks to deliver anything," he said.

There are few data to prove people are actually sleeping under these bednets. According to UNICEF and partners, the percentage of children sleeping under bednets ranges from 4 percent in Cameroon, Swaziland and Guinea to 62 percent in Zambia. In some countries like Tanzania and Malawi, more bednets go to the rich than the poor, though the poor are most at risk from the potentially fatal disease.

There is also little evidence sick kids are getting the drugs. "The proportion of African children receiving (a malaria medicine) is still very low," the report said.

According to its most recent figures from 2008, the World Health Organization estimated there were about 250 million malaria cases including 850,000 deaths. Africa accounts for 90 percent of the world's cases. Before 2008, WHO guessed there were nearly 500 million malaria cases and 1 million deaths. The agency doesn't issue yearly figures but estimates based on household surveys and national statistics so there is little concrete proof to show what difference programs are making.

No comments: