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U.S. Steps Up Commitment To Fight Malaria


The White House is stepping up its commitment to fighting a disease that still kills roughly 600,000 people around the world each year. The Obama administration has announced a six-year extension of a program to fight malaria. NPR's Jason Beaubien has more.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The new malaria money from the White House is going into the President's malaria initiative, which was launched a decade ago by George W. Bush. The original goal was to cut malaria deaths in half in 19 African countries. While that ambitious target hasn't yet been met, Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, the head of the Global Roll Back Malaria Partnership, says the president's malaria initiative has had a major impact.

FATOUMATA NAFO-TRAORE: Tremendous progress has been made, particularly in the last 10 years.

BEAUBIEN: The overall death toll is going down. But according to the World Health Organization, there were 200 million cases of the mosquito-borne disease last year alone. Dr. Nafo says when she was going up in Mali in West Africa, she'd sometimes get malaria two or three times a year.

NAFO-TRAORE: It's a horrible situation, with a high temperature, sweating, muscular pain, chill.

BEAUBIEN: Beyond just how awful malaria makes you feel, it's a huge burden on African health systems, mainly among children under the age of 5.

NAFO-TRAORE: If you look at the situation in most of the African countries, you go to the intensive care unit. Seventy percent of under 5 years are suffering from malaria.

BEAUBIEN: It also remains a major problem in Haiti. The CDC yesterday announced a new plan to wipe out the disease entirely from the island of Hispaniola over the next five years. Jason Beaubien, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

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