Australia Set to Pour $100M to Cut Down Malaria Deaths, Cases

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By Erik Pineda | November 2, 2012 5:21 PM EST

Australia is poised for bigger role in the global fight to significantly reduce hundred-thousands of deaths due to malaria, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Friday that Canberra will contribute $100 million for specific countries in Africa and Asia-Pacific that hopefully would bring down deaths and sickness caused by malaria over the next four years.

The Malaria 2012 conference held Friday in Sydney has set 2015 for malaria cases to decrease by 75 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region, News Ltd said.

Global health experts pointed to malaria as the direct culprit for recorded annual deaths of 655,000 worldwide, with infection rates that run as high as 216 million cases every single year.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 50 per cent of the world's total population are exposed to mosquito bites that could cause malaria and the bulk of the victims and would-be ones are concentrated in Asia-Pacific and Africa.

But the irony, according to WHO Global Malaria Programme Director Robert Newman, is hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved in the past years through preventive and medical intervention tools that cost so little for each person.

"There is no excuse . . . No one should die for lack of these basic tools," Mr Newman told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Friday.

In its present form, the malaria parasites, identified by researchers as most fatal to human, are know to resist many drugs, Senator Carr said, which prompted Australia to further step up global efforts to combat the disease.

He conceded that for Australians though, "malaria is exotic, it's caught by people who haven't taken precautions when travelling away from home."

But with more than three billion people at risk on any given time, this mindset need to change soon, the foreign minister added.

Much of the cash pledged by Australia will be allocated for malaria containment measures in Asia-Pacific and to fund research to develop more potent drugs and ways to neutralise the disease over the next four years.

Ray Chambers, UN envoy for global malaria concerns, lauded Canberra for its generous initiative, which he hoped would prompt other nations to follow suit.

In a communiqué released by 10 Asia-Pacific countries that attended the conference, it was declared that "these actions will save 70,000 lives by 2015, increase productivity of our workers, improve our tourism trade and stimulate national and regional economic growth."

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