Yemen gets millions to fight malaria [Archives:2007/1020/Local News]

January 29 2007

SANA'A, Jan. 27 ) The Gulf Cooperation Council Health Minister agreed on Wednesday to grant Yemen $17 million to combat malaria.

The grant, which is a part of a plan aimed to eliminate malaria from the Arabian Peninsula, came at the end of the annual conference of GCC Health Ministers which was held last week in Kuwait.

The minister of public health and population and head of the Yemen delegation, Abdul Karim Yahya Rasae, Yemen will work towards making the Arabian Peninsula free of malaria in coordination with World Health Organization.

According to health officials malaria is one of the most serious health problems in Yemen. Approximately 60 percent of the population live in areas with a malaria presence. It is estimated that the annual malaria cases in Yemen range between 800,000 and 900,000. However, WHO said that the number of reported cases in 2005 was only 200,560 which is reflection of poor malaria awareness.

The Ministry of Health said that Yemen had made progress in its fight against the disease. On Socotra the rate of infection of malaria fell from 36 percent to 1 percent, whereas the rate of infection in Tihama region was 46 percent in 1998, and it dropped to 11 percent in 2003. But WHO insist that Yemen is still one of most malaria-infected countries in the Middle East.

Low coverage for public health services and the National Malaria Control Program is still weak in terms of human resources and infrastructure and the high percentage of misdiagnosis are among other factors that lead to malaria in Yemen, said WHO.

According to the WHO report, Yemen managed to control this disease successfully in 1980s. However, Yemen was hard hit in 1998 after an extremely heavy rain season. The number of annual cases during that period doubled from 1.5 million to three million, with mortality rate between 15,000 and 30,000.

In 2001, Yemen with the cooperation of WHO established its National Malaria Control Program whose strategy includes elements such as early diagnosis and prompt treatment, awareness and an information system and up of these reducing malaria mortality by 75 percent by 2010.