* Malaria kills more than 780,000 people a year worldwide
* More than 100 countries still have endemic malaria
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent
SEATTLE, Oct 17 Nearly a third of all malaria
affected countries are on course to eliminate the mosquito-borne
disease over the next 10 years, the World Health Organisation
(WHO) said on Monday.
In a progress report published by the Roll Back Malaria
(RBM) partnership at the start of an international Malaria Forum
conference in Seattle, the United Nations health body said
"remarkable progress" had been made.
Up to a third of the 108 countries and territories across
the world where malaria is endemic are moving towards being able
to wipe out the disease within their borders, it said.
"Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a
clearer picture of where we are on the ground -- and has shown
that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic
regions of the world," Robert Newman, director of the WHO's
Global Malaria Programme, told the conference.
He said the WHO continually monitors progress to ensure
countries are supported in their efforts to be malaria-free.
Almost half the world's population -- or 3.3 billion people
-- are at risk of malaria and the mosquito-borne parasitic
disease killed 781,000 people in 2009, latest data show.
Most of its victims are in Africa, where the disease kills a
child every 45 seconds.
Malaria elimination -- halting the disease's transmission
and reducing infections to zero within a defined area -- was
first attempted on a large scale during the Global Malaria
Eradication Program from 1955 to 1972.
During that time, 20 countries were certified by WHO as
malaria-free. But that number dropped to just four countries
during the following 30 years when efforts to control the spread
of the disease lapsed and it swiftly returned.
Monday's report said seven countries had recently eliminated
malaria and were working to prevent re-introduction, another 10
countries were monitoring transmission to get down to zero
malaria cases, and a further nine were "preparing to move
towards nationwide elimination of malaria".
"The extraordinary commitment, the ... financing, and the
coordination of efforts to realise malaria targets over the last
ten years have resulted in a situation today where we could see
10 more countries reaching a malaria-free status in a relatively
short time," said Awa Marie Coll-Seck, RBM's executive director.
"This will save many many more lives."
RBM said in a report in September that a rapid scale up of a
range of malaria control measures -- such as insecticide treated
mosquito nets, indoor spraying, faster and more accurate
diagnosis and access to anti-malaria drugs -- has saved an
estimated 1.1 million lives in Africa in the past 10 years.
International funding for the fight against malaria has also
risen substantially in recent years, reaching about $1.5 billion
in 2010, up from $100,000 million in 2003.
Newman said that with all the highly effective tools
currently available, "no one should die of malaria" and urged
international donors and national governments to push harder to
ensure all those who needed them had access to them.
Only then, he said, would the "global goal of eradicating
this ancient scourge" become a reality.
The Malaria Forum is organised and funded by the Gates
Foundation, a $34 billion fund founded by the billionaire
Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The foundation is devoted
largely to health projects in poor countries.
In 2007, Gates and his wife Melinda called on the
international community to fight for global eradication of
malaria, saying that to aspire to anything less would be
(Editing by Sophie Hares)