Every year, malaria sickens about five hundred million people. More than one million of them die, mostly young children and pregnant women in Africa.
For several years in sub-Saharan Africa, the Global Fund and other groups have been paying for bed nets treated with long-lasting insect poison. Malaria is spread by mosquito bites. The groups have also invested in antimalaria drugs for A.C.T., artemisinin-based combination therapy.
Recently, a team from the World Health Organization visited Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia. These countries were the first to distribute the bed nets and medicine. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria requested a study to see if the interventions were helping.
The researchers found that the answer is yes. They looked at records of children under five. They found that malaria deaths fell by sixty-six percent in Rwanda between 2005 and 2007. Deaths fell by fifty-one percent in Ethiopia, thirty-four percent in Ghana and thirty-three percent in Zambia.
The team reported that limited supplies of bed nets could help explain the more limited effects in Zambia and Ghana. But the findings in Ghana were more difficult to explain, because deaths from causes other than malaria fell more sharply. The report says this was in keeping with general improvements in health services.
The full report can be found at who.int, on the page for the global malaria program.
In another new study, researchers reported that vitamin A and zinc treatments might also help protect young children from malaria. Scientists in Burkina Faso found that malaria reinfection rates fell by thirty-four percent in a group of children treated with vitamin A and zinc.
The findings appear in Nutrition Journal, an open access publication that can be read free of charge at nutritionj.com.
Now, we turn from a disease that kills a million people a year to a behavior that kills more than five times that many: smoking.
A new report from the World Health Organization estimates that tobacco killed one hundred million people in the twentieth century. And it says the number this century could reach one billion.
We will talk more about this major report next week, and new efforts to control tobacco.
And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news go to voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Faith Lapidus.