Malaria: global deaths down by a fifth over a decade

Global deaths from malaria have fallen by a fifth over the past decade, reflecting an influx of funds to fight the disease with better drugs and mosquito nets, Roll Back Malaria said Monday.

Mortality from malaria in 2009 was 781,000, compared with 984,000 in 2000, the Geneva-based RBM agency said in a report.

Three nations -- Morocco, Turkmenistan and the -- have been certified by the UN's (WHO) as malaria-free, it added.

It attributed the improvement to a surge in funding, which rose from 100 million dollars in 2003 to 1.5 billion dollars in 2010, bringing total spending over the decade to some five billion.

"This dramatic rise in funding helped transform the malaria landscape, making universal coverage with proven interventions an achievable goal for many countries," said the report, A Decade of Partnership and Results.

Big donors who appeared on the scene included the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the .

RBM was set up in 1998 by three UN agencies and the World Bank and now has more than 500 "partner" organisations which coordinate work and pool expertise.

In a press release, it claimed a 38-percent reduction in deaths over the decade, a figure based on world population growth and what would have happened if the mortality trend in 2000 had been maintained to 2009 without anti-malaria intervention.

Around 80 percent of all malaria cases and more than 90 percent of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease also costs around 12 billion dollars annually in lost output.

So far, enough insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to cover nearly 80 percent of Africa's population at risk.

In an interview with AFP, RBM Executive Director Awa Marie Coll-Seck singled out a trio of southern African countries for excellence.

"Swaziland has seen a fall in cases of 80 percent, in South Africa there are now hardly any cases and Namibia has maybe 100 per year," she said.

Artemisinin, a drug derived from a Chinese plant, became in 2006 the recommended malarial treatment by the World Health Organisation, replacing medications that had run into resistance by the parasite that causes the disease.

Coll-Seck said artemisinin continued to perform "with 100 percent effectiveness", but noted cases of resistance that had been recorded on the Thai-Cambodian border.

"We must remain vigilant to prevent this kind of situation from spreading in the world. It's one of the challenges we have to overcome," she said.

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