Tan Ee Lyn, Guangzhou - Mail and Guardian
A dire shortage
of money, infrastructure and medical personnel continues to make drugs
inaccessible to people who most need them -- children and pregnant women, the
two groups most vulnerable to the disease.
The World Health Organisation recommends artemisinin-based combination therapies
(ACTs) as the drug of choice to fight malaria. Artemisinin is compound extracted
from a herb that is mostly grown in
"We have many very good drugs, but populations which need them most are not
getting them, and these are the rural poor," Prudence Hamade, chairperson
of Mdcins Sans Frontires's International Malaria Working Group, told an
anti-malaria conference in
Citing a study in
, Hamade said only 9% of children with malaria were treated with ACTs in 2003
"Developed countries need to contribute more to the fight against malaria
and because it only affects people in developing world, it's a neglected
disease," she told Reuters.
One of the world's oldest diseases, malaria sickens between 300-million and
500-million people a year, killing more than one million of them, or a person
every 30 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation.
Number one killer
JB Rwakimari of Uganda's National Malaria Control Programme calls the disease --
which hounds 95% of the country's 28-million population all year round -- a top
killer. The remaining 5% of the population live on higher ground, which are
affected only seasonally by the deadly pest.
"340 people in
die every day from malaria, 320 of them are children," he told Reuters on
the sidelines of the conference.
"We have not many health facilities. Parents carry their sick children for
miles and when they get to a clinic, the child may be close to death," said
the medical doctor, who has suffered at least six episodes of malaria himself.
Because of their immature immune systems, children succumb very easily to
malaria and can die within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms if they are not
However, some adults may sometimes become so used to it that they can even
continue working with all the immense discomfort associated with the disease.
"But they are weak and it affects the economy," Rwakimari said of the
disease that drains African output by 12-billion yearly, according to the WHO.
What are needed are drugs, bed nets and effective control of mosquitoes using
pesticides, all of which do not come cheap.
A bed net costs 5, hardly affordable for the average worker in
, who earns 1 a week, Hamade said. - Reuters