Anti-malaria drive saving lives: WHO

United Nations: A "phenomenal expansion" in efforts to curtail malaria is saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The disease still killed an estimated 781,000 people in 2009 -- including about 650,000 children younger than five -- but that figure has been reduced from 985,000 in 2000, the
UN health agency said.

The distribution of millions of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and increased spraying against the insects is having a dramatic impact, according to the WHO`s World Malaria Report 2010 report.

For the first time in 2009, no cases of locally-transmitted malaria were reported in Europe. Morocco and Turkmenistan were added to a growing list of countries as being malaria-free, WHO said.

Forty-two percent of African households now have a treated anti-mosquito net and 11 African nations have showed a greater than 50 per cent reduction in confirmed malaria cases or malaria admissions and deaths over the past decade.

About 90 percent of malaria deaths each year occur in Africa and 92 percent of those are children aged under five.

In China the number of cases has fallen more than 50 percent over the past decade and in India by about a quarter.

Only three nations in world -- Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Zambia -- saw an increase last year.

WHO director general Margaret Chan said: "The results set out in this report are the best seen in decades. After so many years of deterioration and stagnation in the malaria situation, countries and their development partners are now on the offensive."

"The phenomenal expansion in access to malaria control interventions is translating directly into lives saved," added Ray Chambers, the UN special envoy for malaria.

Bureau Report