Mr. President, in the context of this important plenary meeting, permit me to address one key element to which we are pleased to make a special contribution. For many years, the U.S. has been committed to the prevention and treatment of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis and we remain determined to combat these diseases worldwide, as part of our commitment to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
The U.S. Government’s commitment to fight malaria is a key component of our foreign assistance strategy. We have worked in close collaboration with host countries, other donors, non-governmental, faith-based and community organizations, the private sector and the United Nations. United States Government assistance in malaria and the wider health sector in developing countries has helped bring about unprecedented improvements in public health.
To strengthen these efforts, President Obama has announced a six-year, 63 billion dollar Global Health Initiative that will allow the United States Government to continue to lead in the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. We will do so while focusing increasing attention on strengthening health systems and broader health challenges, including child and maternal health, family planning, and neglected tropical diseases.
Mr. President, malaria is one of the major causes of illness and death among children under the age of five in Africa and adversely affects productivity among all age groups. Malaria places a tremendous burden on national health systems as well as individual families. Economists estimate that malaria accounts for approximately 40 percent of public health expenditures in Africa and annual economic costs of 1.3 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product.
The United States is a major supporter of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and a portion of those U.S. contributions support malaria programs. Through the President’s Malaria Initiative, the U.S. is helping fifteen ‘high burden countries in Africa to scale up effective malaria prevention and treatment interventions – insecticide treated mosquito nets, combination treatments, indoor residual spraying with insecticides, and preventive treatment of pregnant women.
In close partnership with host countries and other development partners, we are seeing major reductions in the number of people infected with malaria in Rwanda, Zambia, and Zanzibar. Declines at the district-level have also been reported from Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. These achievements have been associated with substantially reduced mortality rates of children under the age of five in both Rwanda and Zambia.
During the first three years of implementation, the U.S. reached more than 32 million people with malaria prevention or treatment measures. In 2008, we procured more than six million four-hundred thousand long-lasting insecticide-treated nets for free distribution to pregnant women and young children and a total of fifteen million six-hundred thousand ACT treatments. Indoor residual spraying activities covered 6 million houses and protected nearly 25 million people at risk of malaria. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative supported a broad range of programs to strengthen health systems and health education in host countries.
By reducing the burden of malaria in highly endemic countries, where the disease is a leading child killer and often accounts for 30 to 40 percent of outpatient visits and hospital admissions, our assistance through the Malaria Initiative allows critical resources and overstretched health workers to concentrate on controlling other childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
In addition to the 15 focus countries, the U.S. has malaria programs in four non-focus countries; and two regional platforms -- the Amazon Malaria Initiative, covering eight countries making up the Amazon Basin of South America; and the Mekong Malaria Program, covering five countries (plus Yunnan Province, China) in the Greater Mekong Sub-region in Southeast Asia.
In closing, Mr. President, I would like to note that while the U.S. government has had significant malaria programs for years, the current focus and funding is unprecedented. The President’s Malaria Initiative represents an historic 1.2 billion dollar, five-year expansion of U.S. government resources to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa -- the region most affected by this disease. The goal of this initiative is to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in the 15 African countries with a high burden of the malady -- leading to the possibility of a better life for those spared the ravages of this dreaded disease.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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