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Funding cuts spur global malaria outbreaks, says study

United States America,Health/Medicine, Thu, 26 Apr 2012 IANS

Washington, April 26 (IANS) Funding cuts may explain the global resurgence of malaria, says a new study that analysed 75 documented cases of the disease's outbreaks worldwide since 1930.


At least 68 out of the 75 cases were partly caused by weakened malaria control programmes, with 39 of the 68 tied to funding constraints, according to the research led by the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Global Health Group, and the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, the Malaria Journal reported, citing a California varsity statement.


The results are significant in the light of an estimated $9.7 billion gap between funds available and funds needed for malaria programmes worldwide over the next three years, according to Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership linked to the UN that is coordinating a plan among 500 member nations and organisations to eliminate the disease worldwide.


"We cannot afford to let history repeat itself," said Sir Richard Feachem, founding executive director of the Global Fund who now directs the UCSF Global Health Group.


"It is imperative that we not lose the gains that these countries have achieved in malaria control," added Feachem.


"Malaria control programmes have been shown to be extremely successful in reducing the number of cases of malaria to very low levels, but history demonstrates that gains can be lost rapidly if financial and political support is not sustained," said Justin Cohen, of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, who led the study.


Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite transmitted from person to person by the bite of a mosquito. In the past two centuries, numerous research and public health efforts worldwide have sought to combat this ancient scourge.


An estimated 216 million people contracted malaria in 2010 in 106 countries and 655,000 died from it, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Nine in 10 of those deaths are in Africa, and 86 percent were in children under age five. WHO estimates that in countries where it is common, malaria can measurably lower the gross domestic product and consume nearly half of all public health expenditures.


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