April 24, 2012

Deputy of U.S. initiative says the fight against malaria is working

Meghan Parmentier, GHLI intern

Dr. Bernard Nahlen visited Yale to recognize National Malaria Day (April 25) and to speak at the Global Health Seminar about efforts being made in the fight against the disease. Dr. Nahlen, deputy coordinator of the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), outlined the burden of the disease, what the PMI and global support are doing as part of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and how the fight against malaria is making positive strides.

Because the funding for the prevention and treatment of malaria has increased, Nahlen described how the global burden of the disease is decreasing. In fact, the statistic of one child dying from malaria every 30 seconds has gone down to one child dying every 45 seconds. Still, he said, there is immense work to be done for the 3.5 billion people at risk.

Among regions most affected by malaria, Nahlen highlighted Africa and described the vicious cycle of how the treatments, repeated bouts of the disease, and impact on labor productivity keep the areas in poverty. He estimates that malaria causes an annual loss of growth up to 1.3 percent each year.

Having lived in Western Kenya for many years, Nahlen spoke from experience recounting how in malaria-prone areas, many children can receive five or six infected bites a night. Thus, the latter half of his presentation focused on the life-saving interventions the initiative is implementing. The two most effective include insecticide-treated nets to hang over sleeping areas and indoor residual spraying. According to Nahlen, studies already show these efforts are killing the infected female mosquitoes before they get a chance to bite, resulting in a large reduction of children coming to clinics for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and even reducing the risk of infant mortality.

“There is strong evidence that the major scale up of malaria prevention and control interventions contributed significantly to the 45 percent reduction in all-cause under-5 mortality in Mainland Tanzania during the period 1999 to 2010,” he said during his presentation. Now, they are doing the same thing country by country.

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