African leaders launch push against malaria

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - African leaders from 26 countries have launched a fresh drive to eliminate malaria using a combination of bed nets, insecticides and medication, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete said on Wednesday.

About one million people die every year worldwide from the disease, of whom 85 percent are in Africa, Kikwete said.

“We believe that if we cover everybody in Africa with bed nets, insecticides and medication by the end of this year, we will have zero deaths or near zero deaths from malaria in Africa by 2015,” said Ray Chambers, a U.N. special envoy for malaria.

This three-pronged approach had cut malaria cases in the archipelago of Zanzibar to below 1 percent from 40 percent, Kikwete told a news conference of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa.

U.S. Malaria Coordinator Timothy Ziemer said the U.S. government has made a budget request of $680 million for the fight against malaria in 2011. That includes $100 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, which together account for about half of the world’s malaria cases.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease costs Africa over $40 billion a year in treatment and sick days.