U.N. Launches World Malaria Day

Although in India the number of total infections has decreased by nearly half since 1996, the number of infections caused by the deadliest form of malaria has increased fourfold in 30 years.

That, advocates say, has come thanks to the breaking down of traditional borders.

In an interview with ABC News, Jai Narain, the director of the WHO's communicable diseases section in South East Asia, said, "The tendency of someone to be infected and then move to another part of the world -- the disease can move much faster than before."

Also, thanks to global warming, mosquitoes can now survive at 6,000 feet above sea level instead of just 3,600 feet.

The WHO warns that some parts of the country, especially at the base of the Himalayas, have only a third of the medical staff they need to cope with outbreaks. "The major emphasis we are pushing is that all the countries need to scale-up contingencies for these outbreaks. Until this scale-up occurs, we will not have much impact on malaria," Narain told ABC News.

INDONESIA

Indonesia is one of the countries worst hit by malaria in Asia.

Health Ministry figures quoted in The Jakarta Post say that there were 311,000 cases in 2007, while an estimated 700 people die of the disease each year. "

In fact, Indonesia is still one of the countries with the highest risks of malaria, especially in the eastern part of the country, " Nyoman Kandun, the director general for disease control and environmental sanitation, told the Jakarta Post.

To coincide with World Malaria Day the government has launched an initiative to completely eradicate the disease from the islands by 2030.

The government has been spurred on by concerns that it could be losing significant tourism-related revenues because the fear of malaria is keeping people away. A Health Ministry official explained to the Jakarta Post, "That's why preventive measures will be intensified in tourism areas such as Bali, Lombok and Batam."

BRAZIL

Malaria in Brazil accounts for 40 percent of the reported cases in the Americas. The disease afflicts vast areas of the Amazon region and the marshlands in the east of the country.

Recently, the Brazilian state health authorities announced a new cheap and effective treatment to wipe out malaria.

The treatment was developed by the Brazilian government and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. It combines artesunate and mefloquine, both existing malaria drugs, into one single fixed-dose pill and costs just $2.50 for a full course. A single dose increases the efficacy of the treatment because there is less risk of patients not taking the pills.

So far, trials show success with the treatment.

In the state of Acre, an isolated part of the Amazon, studies showed that malaria cases had dropped by 70 percent.

The measure has been welcomed by the organization Doctors without Borders, and while it is not an all-out cure, there is much hope that it will prove to be a huge step in combating the disease, which claims the lives of 1 million people around the world.

Ben Barnier, Sonia Gallego, Ammu Kannampilly, Zoe Magee, Nick Schifrin, and Lara Setrakian contributed to this report.

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