UNICEF Canada

UNICEF Canada

April 25, 2007 06:00 ET

UNICEF Canada: Billions More Needed to Fight Biggest Killer of Children in Africa-Malaria

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 25, 2007) - On Africa Malaria Day, UNICEF is calling for greater efforts to narrow the funding gap in the battle against the number one killer of children in Africa, while noting progress in the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.

An estimated US$ 3.2 billion is needed worldwide each year to fund the fight against malaria in the countries with the highest disease burden - US$ 1.9 billion for Africa alone. While funding has increased over the past decade, estimates suggest that international funding for malaria control stood at only around US$ 600 million in 2004.

In Africa, malaria claims a child's life every 30 seconds, 3,000 children every day - and a staggering one million children every year. Those who survive are often left debilitated, unable to fulfill their potential to learn in school or to earn in later life.

UNICEF and its partners are attacking the scourge of malaria on two fronts: through preventative measures - including the global procurement and distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets - and through drug treatments that mitigate the worst effects of the disease on the millions who still contract it.

"Every 30 seconds, an African child dies from malaria despite it being a curable and preventable disease." said UNICEF Canada President and CEO Nigel Fisher. "The proper use of a $10 bed net has been shown to reduce under-five mortality from all causes by up to 25 per cent. We know what works and we have an obligation to reach more children."

There was a ten-fold increase in the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) between 1999 and 2003 in sub-Saharan Africa. Surveys conducted in 2005 and 2006 are expected to show more major increases in the region.

A number of African countries are leading the way on bed net distribution. Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Zambia have made progress towards the target of 60 per cent insecticide-treated net coverage set at the 2000 African Summit on Roll Back Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria.

With new leadership and as it emerges from years of disastrous civil conflict with a high child mortality rate, Liberia is in great need of assistance in its battle against malaria. In Canada, UNICEF, in partnership with the Spread the Net campaign led by Belinda Stronach and Rick Mercer, has raised enough money to purchase 33,000 bed nets for children and families in Liberia. The campaign goal over two years is to procure up to 500,000 life-saving nets for Liberia and Rwanda.

"Through Spread the Net we are encouraging people to make a difference in the battle against malaria - 1 Net. 10 Bucks. Save Lives - it's a simple way to help prevent malaria in children in Africa," said Fisher.

Funding for insecticide-treated nets, and for malaria testing and treatment have significantly increased over the past decade, thanks to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the US President's Malaria Initiative, the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Spread the Net Campaign in Canada and others.

Background information

UNICEF is the world's largest global procurer and deliverer of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) with over 24 million ITNs procured in 2006. More than 90 per cent of these were long lasting insecticide-treated nets that do not require re-treatment. These nets are distributed to pregnant women and young children as part of integrated maternal and child health programmes, such as antenatal care and immunization.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

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