African heads of state promise action against malaria
- By: Gavin Yamey
A pledge to halve Africa's malaria deaths by 2010 was signed by more than 50 of the continent's heads of state last week. The declaration was made at an international summit on malaria, in Abuja, Nigeria, hosted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the country's president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
The disease causes at least one million deaths worldwide each year, of which 90% are in sub-Saharan Africa. The summit coincided with the launch of the WHO's Roll-Back Malaria project in Africa.
Opening the summit, Tim Menakaya, Nigeria's health minister, said: “Malaria keeps societies poor, undermines development, and reduces the incomes of families who are already the poorest in the world. Every family in Africa pays a malaria tax.” Previous efforts to eradicate malaria in Africa, he said, have been “fragmented and uncoordinated.”
The main focus of the new control programme will be bed nets that have been treated with