We are in £ 1bn war against a child killer

Staff Writers | 19 Nov 2007
The Sun (England)

Malaria is a killer. It claims the lives of more than one million people every year. That's nearly three thousand deaths every day.

Put another way, malaria will have killed as many as half a dozen people by the time you've finished reading this article.

In Africa, one in five of the children who die before their fifth birthday are killed by the disease. Around 500million people every year are also made severely ill and many require hospital treatment.

Britain is at the forefront of the battle to stop this killer in its tracks.

It was British research, backed by Government funding, which helped develop revolutionary bed nets which can stop the mosquitoes which carry this disease.

Research shows that where there are bed nets, deaths from malaria can be almost halved. For every 1,000 bed nets, the lives of seven children are saved.

Hospital admissions due to malaria are more than halved where there are nets.

So we have the weapons - now we need to get them to the frontline.

A few weeks ago, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander announced we have committed £ 1billion to fight malaria, AIDS and TB.

As well as providing more effective drugs, that cash will help get these vital bed nets to some of the poorest people on earth in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria kills most. Already Britain has distributed millions of bed nets in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania.

Vaccine

But we can and must do more. And in this battle we can all do our bit.

That is why I am glad to back The Sun's campaign to fight malaria. This disease costs Africa £ 6billion each year through sickness and lost productivity.

Malaria makes poor people poorer. It places a huge drain on limited resources.

As well as tackling the spread of malaria, we must also try to kill the disease for good.

Two years ago, I visited Mozambique where they were researching a potential malaria vaccine, which latest tests show could reduce the risk of new infections in infants by around 65 per cent.

I vowed then that if this vaccine worked, we would underwrite the market for its production and we stand ready to do that alongside our international partners.

This is what we are doing with the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners for pneumococcal vaccine - to prevent the pneumonia- related deaths that kill another million children under five every year.

We can be proud that in the last ten years Britain has led the world in the effort to fight poverty and disease but we can always do more.

As a country we joined with our international partners in the Millennium Development Goals and made a promise to the world that we would reduce child mortality and fight diseases like malaria. Those are promises we must keep.

We have gone a long way in the battle against malaria. Now together we can win it.

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