World Bank to give $1 billion boost to fighting malaria in Africa
United Nations, New York, September 25, 2008-The World Bank today announced a $1.1 billion expansion of its malaria-fighting programs in Africa at the United Nations Special Session on the Millennium Development Goals in New York.
Speaking at a UN panel of leaders from OECD and malaria-endemic countries, World Bank Group President, Robert B. Zoellick, said the new financial commitment would help African countries over the next three years to expand their malaria prevention, care, and treatment programs and to sharply reduce the numbers of malaria-related deaths and illness that afflict their communities each year.
"Malaria is a crushing development burden for poor people and developing countries which the World Bank is committed to fighting for as long as it takes to get it under control," said Zoellick. "Malaria preys on the poor and keeps them poor. Poverty prevents people from buying bed-nets to prevent malaria and medicine to cure it. When people are struck by the disease, parents miss work; children miss school; and malaria emergencies plunge families into debt from which they can't recover."
The World Bank Group President said that countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Zambia, were starting to see welcome signs of progress as they expanded their malaria fighting programs to get more bed-nets per household and stepped up access to low-cost, effective drugs for treating the disease.
Zoellick said the World Bank has made a priority of working in two of the hardest-hit countries in Africa, namely, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. These countries account for 30 to 40 percent of all malaria deaths worldwide. Both countries, he added, are preparing to launch massive bed net distributions, expanding treatment to the rural poor, and improving the overall health system so that the gains made through rapid control can be sustained.
"We can't achieve any of the ambitious global development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals more broadly, without tackling the disease in these places. As long as malaria remains a problem in these two countries, their neighbors' efforts to control the disease will be limited and their hopes of eliminating malaria will be thwarted." said Zoellick.
The UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, praised the Bank's new malaria-fighting expansion, saying it would greatly assist African countries in gaining the upper hand against malaria, and the significant social and economic hardship it inflicts on Africans every day.
"Today's announcement by the World Bank is a major step toward ending deaths from malaria, especially in high-burden countries in Africa. The Secretary General and I applaud the Bank's expanded efforts and its determination to support African countries as they combat this killer disease. Now it is up to the countries themselves to prioritize malaria as a vital health and development issue," Chambers said.
Also responding to the World Bank's malaria announcement at the UN in New York, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB, and Malaria, said it greatly welcomed the doubling of World Bank's malaria control financing in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Chairman of the Global Fund Board, Rajat Gupta, he was especially pleased to see the World Bank focus its malaria fight on two of the hardest-hit countries in the world and its commitment to controlling malaria across national boundaries.
"We are committed to working hand-in-hand with the Bank to end malaria as a threat to public health and economic growth, and will seek to implement a joint program of action to this end," said Gupta. "Together, our institutions can enable African countries not only to achieve dramatic gains against this disease, but also strengthen the underlying health system to sustain the gains made.
To date, the World Bank has committed over US $470 million to 19 African countries- a nine-fold increase in Bank funding-since the launch of its Booster Program for Malaria Control in Africa in 2005 to intensify its anti-malaria efforts on the continent. One notable initiative supported in the initial phase of the Booster Program is Benin's long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) campaign which distributed 1.7 million bed-nets nationwide, 1.4 million of which were purchased with Bank funds. This was the first LLIN distribution to cover Benin's entire population of children under five.
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