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World | Africa

MSF calls for free malaria treatment for greater results

afrol News, 30 September - International medical aid group has today called for free rapid diagnostic tests to fight malaria in African. Malaria deaths are estimated over a million per year in Sub Saharan Africa.

According to Medecins Sans Frontieres report many lives could be saved if new and effective strategies to tackle malaria are implemented.

A report based on groups working in Sierra Leone, Chad and Mali, said there are effective tools to treat malaria but a limited number of patients have access to them, stating that broader strategies were needed to fight the disease.

The report said free treatment, expanding use of a quick test and training villagers to identify and treat simple cases of malaria in home based care centres would be crucial in the fight against malaria.

MSF's general director in Brussels Meinie Nicolai, said rapid tests to diagnose malaria and funding to treat the disease existed but remained insufficient. "Newer and more effective drugs have started to arrive on the shelves, rapid tests exist that can confirm the diagnosis in 15 minutes," she said.

Ms Nicolai said many efforts are failing at last hurdle and scores of sick people, mainly children, still do not get treatment they need.

Christine Jamet, head of MSF's operations in Chad, told reporters at a news conference in Johannesburg that number of patients treated in one region of that central African country after free tests and drugs were introduced increased ten-fold in one year from 10,000 to 100,000.

"Some 90 percent of the villagers in the region live on less than a dollar a day. If people living in those circumstances are asked to pay for treatment, they will have to make tough decisions," Ms Jamet said.

Malaria can be fatal. It is transferred to humans from bite of a malaria-infected mosquito. Approximately 40 percent of the world's population, mostly those living in the poorest countries are at risk of malaria.

Last month, United Nations launched an initiative to dramatically reverse malaria in Africa.

UN General Assembly new initiative, Roll Back Malaria is estimated to cost US $5.3 billion in 2009, $6.2 billion in 2010 and $5.1 billion annually from 2011 to 2020.

MSF treated 1.3 million malaria patients around the world last year. Pilot MSF projects in Chad, Sierre Leone and Mali focused on what the group saw as two main barriers for many poor people, costs of tests and of treatment with state-of-the-art cocktail of drugs known as ACT, and difficulties of reaching health centers.

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