Despite improvements in treatments and diagnostics, malaria continues to kill almost 1 million people every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is the biggest killer of children under five.
The fact that quick, effective diagnosis and treatment is now possible makes the continuing tragedy of malaria in the developing world all the more unacceptable. Today, a more modern treatment called artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is proving extremely effective at combating malaria. It acts quickly and has few side effects.
The World Health Organization has changed its malaria guidelines to advise the use of ACT, and 41 African countries have adopted these recommendations.
New diagnostic tests require just one drop of blood and give results in 15 minutes. Last year, using these tests, MSF successfully diagnosed and treated over 1 million malaria patients in 30 countries.
The systematic use of diagnostic testing also reduces the risk of patients with fever being treated for malaria without confirmation of a diagnosis, which results in unnecessary prescription of ACT, and leaves the patient’s true condition untreated.
MSF routinely uses microscopy or diagnostic tests, as well as ACTs, in all the medical projects where we treat malaria patients.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals have set 2015 as the deadline to halve the number of patients falling ill with malaria and other major diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, in the developing world.
In September, governments of the world will meet at the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals to review their progress, and donor countries will decide how much they will allocate to the Global Fund, aimed at fighting malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
The commitments made through the Millennium Development Goals have created hope in the developing world that unnecessary deaths due to preventable and treatable diseases will no longer be considered acceptable by developed countries.
The realization of these goals depends on how the world reacts to the continuing emergency of malaria and other acute health needs in the developing world.
—Martin De Smet, MD
Médecins sans Frontières
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