April 23, 2010 / 1:59 AM / 7 years ago

CORRECTED - U.S. effort to fight malaria focuses on women

(Makes clear in first paragraph that malaria is one part of the plan)

* $63 billion plan to include drugs and mosquito nets

* Greatly expands 2005 initiative

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. government announced on Thursday it would focus part of its $63 billion, six-year Global Health Initiative plan to accelerate efforts to fight malaria, mostly in Africa and aimed at women and children.

The goal is to reach 450 million people, or about 70 percent of the highest-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa. The plan is to use insecticide-treated nets, indoor insecticide spraying, preventive treatment of pregnant women, and treatment of infected people with artemisinin-based drug cocktails.

The work through the Global Health Initiative will keep trying to integrate with each country’s preferred approach to fighting malaria, which infects 247 million people globally and kills nearly one million a year, mostly children.

“The United States will invest $63 billion over six years to help partner countries improve health outcomes, with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children,” reads the report, issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The full report is available at www.pmi.gov/resources/reports/usg_strategy2009-2014.pdf.

A major goal is to affect most of Africa by cutting malaria rates in half among the 450 million people targeted, the report says. It also aims to limit the spread of malaria parasites that resist treatment in Southeast Asia and the Americas.

The program will distribute nets and help spray against mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites. But it will also try to build public health capacity and also seek to integrate anti-malaria efforts with work to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and so-called neglected tropical diseases.

Without prompt treatment, malaria can cause severe illness, coma and death. There is no vaccine but prophylactic drugs can help prevent infection. So can efforts to eradicate mosquitoes.

In 2005, the U.S. government released a five-year, $1.2 billion malaria initiative targeting 15 African countries.

The latest plan released expands on this, rolling out anti-malaria efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria as well as up to seven additional countries.

“The selection of the seven additional countries will be based on population, malaria burden, health infrastructure, and availability of other donor funding,” the report reads.

In March, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership said funding to combat malaria must be more than tripled to be effective.

The group, backed by the World Health Organization, said total annual funding was about $2 billion at the end of 2009, but $6 billion a year was needed.

In the worst-hit countries, malaria takes up 90 percent of public health spending. [ID:nSP459775]

Resistance to chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, the cheapest malaria drugs, is common. Artemisinin combination therapy drugs made by firms like Novartis NOVN.VX and Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) can cost up to $11 over the counter.

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