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Malaria kills more than 3,000 African children a day, drug resistance is an "enormous and growing problem", and measures to tackle what is a completely preventable disease must be stepped up, according to the first comprehensive report on malaria in Africa, published today.

The Africa Malaria Report 2003, produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), says that malaria remains the single largest cause of death in young children in Africa and one of the most important threats to the health of pregnant women and newborns.

It also stresses that new effective anti-malarial drugs are not yet accessible to those who need them, and that only a small proportion of children at risk of malaria are currently being protected by highly effective insecticide-treated bed nets.

But the report also gives some good news: there is a clear trend towards increasing use of bed nets, and a change in government tax policies on nets in many African countries, along with the development of Africa-based industrial production of nets, will help sustain this trend. In addition, international spending on malaria has more than trebled to US$200 million a year in the past five years.

"We need to increase efforts to combat a devastating disease which is holding back the development of many African countries," says Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of WHO. "Malaria continues to tighten its grip on Africa. By scaling up our efforts, we can reverse this trend."

© SciDev.Net 2003

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Link to The Africa Malaria Report 2003
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