Five million people in Ghana including nearly 1 million children under the age of five will be protected from malaria through a new UK aid package.
Britain’s government is backing a United Nations Children’s Fund programme to hand out more than 2 million life-saving mosquito nets for beds as well as teaching people how important it is to sleep under them.
The west African country is a malaria hot spot where every year 3 million suspected cases of malaria are reported. In 2007, 22 per cent of children under five and nine per cent of mothers who died, died because of malaria. In 2006, Ghana had an estimated 7.2 million cases of malaria according to the World Health Organisation. And among those cases, 3.9 million of them were in children under five years old.
"It's a scandal that more than 850,000 people die every year from malaria which is a preventable disease - in Africa a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds,” said the UK’s International Development Minister Stephen O'Brien on an official visit to Ghana.
"Ending preventable deaths from the disease is a priority for British Government and making better progress in high burden countries such as Ghana will be crucial to our efforts.
"This support alone will save the lives of an estimated 15,000 children by giving them a bed net to sleep under and teaching them the importance of using it.
"This commitment underlines the UK support for the efforts being made by the Ghana Government to purge the country of malaria," he said adding "restricting the spread of malaria is a key priority for the UK Government".
Ghana’s Minister of Health Dr Ben Kunbuor, said on Wednesday that the country’s Government would tackle malaria through prevention rather than treatment. He told a Ghanaian news website that the average Ghanaian had two or three bouts of malaria every year.
In September Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the UK will help halve the number of deaths caused by malaria in at least 10 African countries by 2015, at the UN Milennium Development Goals summit in New York .
Next month, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) will launch a road map of how this drastic reduction in malaria deaths will be achieved and built on. The road map will focus on malaria hot-spots - countries which account for 98% of all malaria deaths. It will also back measures to reduce the spread of resistance to malaria drugs which threatens progress.
Crucial resources for malaria have in the past been wasted because poor diagnoses mean anti-malarial treatments were given to people who had fever but did not actually have malaria. The Government has committed to improving the diagnosis and treatment of malaria to try and ensure the most effective interventions reach the most vulnerable people.