Holy See on Malaria

«A Major Threat to Human Security»

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NEW YORK, OCT. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the 63rd U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 15. The Agenda item addressed was: "2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa.»

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Mr President,

My delegation is grateful for the extensive report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of General Assembly Resolution 62/180 entitled: 2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa and notes both the challenges in combating this disease as well as the progress made thus far.

The recent General Assembly decision to give greater attention to developing countries, especially in Africa, is a positive step in the right direction, particularly because it recognizes that malaria can be substantially reduced by public awareness, education and committing resources toward research and treatment. Given that in the last fifteen years there has been an increased prevalence of the disease — which could well double the death rate in the next twenty years — it is imperative that the international community work together in order to fight this endemic.

Each year between 300 and 500 million people contract malaria which kills over 1 million people — at least one death every thirty seconds. According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of such deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and the majority of victims are children under five years of age — with almost 3,000 children dying every day in that region. Furthermore, the next largest number of victims are pregnant mothers.

Malaria remains a major threat to human security. Because of the cost of prevention and treatment, those who live in poverty are those most susceptible to this serious disease.

A great number of committed individuals, especially skilled health personnel, are working in primary health centers and through various faith-based organizations in many of the most affected areas in order to care for and properly treat those who have been infected. These providers who often go unnoticed, perform heroic acts of service by caring for those in need.

Our focus in addressing this disease must remain on research, prevention and treatment. We know that the reduction of malaria transmission is achieved by prevention of mosquito bites and control of the mosquito population. In this prospective it seems opportune to recall the Abuja Declaration that calls, among other things, for the development of mechanisms to facilitate the provision of reliable information to decision-makers at different epidemiological levels to enable health authorities to devise appropriate control and surveillance strategies.

Individuals must be able to receive affordable, safe and, where necessary, free diagnostic testing and drugs. Proper diagnosis is available and infected individuals can make full recovery if provided with the adequate means. Efforts should be made so that appropriate treatment is accessible to those who are suffering.

Resources must continue to be allocated to ongoing research into developing new, safe and cost-efficient vaccines as well as medicines to treat those infected. Success in such endeavors will not fail to translate into gradual reduction in the number of overall infections.

In a particular way my Delegation calls the attention to positive efforts in assisting those in need. One is reminded of the importance of educating and helping families care for their loved ones who have contracted malaria. Many Catholic organizations are deeply involved in this field, with wide and directed campaigns. Furthermore, they train community groups to educate parents and caregivers of young children infected with malaria.

Notwithstanding other serious infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis that demand equal attention, our efforts on malaria cannot be sidelined. Clearly, the global community must remain committed to fight all diseases which threaten human lives and security.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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