17 October 2011The United Nations and its partners are escalating their response measures to prevent a malaria outbreak in Somalia, where two million people already suffering from drought, famine and conflict are at higher risk of contracting the disease during the current rainy season. “The health of many Somalis is already extremely compromised due to the drought and famine, especially children suffering from malnutrition. With the rains come an increased risk of malaria,” said Sikander Khan, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Somalia representative.“We must act as swiftly as possible to prevent deaths due to this deadly disease. We are working with our partners on prevention as well as providing treatment services as necessary,” he said.Malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, kills nearly 800,000 people around the world every year with most of the deaths occurring in Africa.To protect the population, UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have engaged in a large-scale campaign which consists of distributing protection kits according to each region’s needs and educating people on the ways to prevent and treat the disease.In drought-affected regions such as Hiran, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba and Middle Juba in south-central Somalia, 280,000 long-lasting insecticide treated nets will be distributed in the next weeks to over 140,000 households in addition to the 79,000 nets which have already been distributed since July.In Mogadishu, where nets are not practical, 45,000 households will receive indoor spraying which will protect them for three to four months, and will be re-sprayed in March and April next year.Health facilities throughout high-risk areas will be equipped with 560,000 doses of anti-malaria drugs as well as with the ability to provide one million rapid diagnostic tests and the capacity to treat cases.The campaign is financially supported by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFTAM) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development.“With these investments in prevention and treatment, and by encouraging people to seek treatment quickly, we can avoid the tragic impact malaria has on people’s lives,” said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.The number of malaria cases in Somalia has decreased by 57 per cent in recent years, from 1.73 million cases in 2005 to 740,000 cases in 2009. This is largely due to the development of new, more effective drugs, rapid diagnostic tests and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, all of which did not exist 10 years ago, as well as the increase in international funding to prevent the disease.