Malaria Death Rate Drops 25% as Funding Set to Decline, WHO Says

The death rate from malaria have dropped more than 25 percent since 2000 as more insecticide- coated nets and diagnostic tests were shipped to Africa and other affected regions, the World Health Organization said.

The number of long-lasting nets delivered rose to 145 million last year from 88.5 million in 2009, the Geneva-based United Nations health agency said today in a report on the disease. About half of households in sub-Saharan Africa own at least one bed net, the report said. Manufacturers shipped 88 million rapid diagnostic tests to affected regions in 2010, almost double the 45 million sent in 2008, the WHO said.

“Worrisome signs suggest that progress might slow,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan wrote in a foreword to the report, citing expected decreases in funding for malaria prevention and treatment. More than $5 billion a year is needed to meet goals for fighting the disease, and funds may have peaked this year at $2 billion, according to Chan.

Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted through mosquito bites. The parasite multiplies in the liver and infects red blood cells. Left untreated, it can disrupt blood supply to vital organs. There were 216 million malaria cases last year and 655,000 deaths, most of them in Africa, according to the WHO.

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