30 June 2000
THIRD OF AFRICAN MALARIA DEATHS DUE TO CONFLICT OR
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 30% of the 960,000 people who die of malaria every year in Africa are from countries affected by serious conflict, war or natural disaster. Indeed, malaria often kills more people in the aftermath of conflict, war or natural disaster than those killed during the actual emergency, according to the global Roll Back Malaria (RBM) movement.
WHO, and other partners in the global movement to roll back malaria, are now focussing more on the health needs of people affected by complex emergencies. Greater attention to the impact of malaria in malaria-endemic regions will prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths and much suffering.
A number of organizations that work in emergency situations have today come together at WHO headquarters in Geneva to produce an action plan to improve the malaria control response during and following emergencies.
Richard Allan, Complex Emergencies focal person for Roll Back Malaria at the World Health Organization, said: " The situation is serious – for example more people have died of malaria in Sierra Leone during the last eight years of ongoing conflict than from trauma injuries.
"We must help people affected by complex emergencies to maintain health when at risk of malaria. First, we have to improve the global response.
"Today is the first time we have brought together Roll Back Malaria partners to discuss how best to improve activity in emergencies," he added.
"We need to combine malaria control expertise with the skills of groups which take immediate action on the ground during an emergency. This enables us to avert the disease taking hold and will make a significant contribution to the overall RBM goal of halving the malaria burden by 2010."
"Typically as emergencies subside the real killers - malaria and other diseases - start to take their toll on affected people who may have to wait for many months before they have access to basic health care ."
Roll Back Malaria Acting Project Manager, Dr Awash Teklehaimanot, said, "Poor nutrition, multiple infections and high stress levels are common amongst displaced populations and leave people more vulnerable to disease. During most complex emergencies people are often forced from their homes, many sleeping without shelter, which leaves them susceptible to mosquito bites and malaria infection."
The Global Partnership to Roll Back Malaria aims to halve malaria deaths in 10 years. Partners include national governments, WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme, The World Bank and bilateral development agencies.
Today’s conference aims to develop more effective partnerships between partners in order to roll back malaria and, ultimately, improve health in complex emergencies.
Organizations participating in today’s conference include the UK-based NGO Merlin, International Federation of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Medecins du Monde, WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and many others. The meeting aims to finalise a joint strategy for rolling back malaria in complex emergencies.
Reports from the conference will be posted on the RBM website.
For further information from WHO, journalists can contact Mr Andy Seale, Media Officer, WHO, Geneva, tel (+41 22) 791 3670, fax (+41 22) 791 4824. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .