Cameroon Conference Focuses on Malaria

Monday, November 14th 2005, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) _ Scientists, health workers and politicians met Sunday in Cameroon to discuss new ways to battle malaria and increase awareness of the deadly disease, which kills thousands a day.

Some 1,500 participants from 65 countries are expected to attend the six-day conference to discuss critical research on all aspects of malaria control, said Louis Da Gama, a spokesman for the UK-based group Massive Effort Campaign and co-organizer of the event.

Opening the ceremony, Rose Leke, an expert in malaria and professor at Yaounde University, called on fellow African scientists to return to the continent.

``I would like to address African scientists who live in the world outside the continent, who have acquired expertise in scientific research ... your continent, your country, your people, your community ... need you,'' Leke told conference participants.

``Come back home and put your knowledge and expertise to further develop science in Africa and foster the technological development that this continent deserves,'' she said.

There are some 500 million cases of malaria each year in Africa, causing one child to die every 30 seconds on the continent and costing about $12 billion annually in lost gross domestic product.

After the official ceremony, which started hours behind schedule, Leke told The Associated Press that the meeting would focus on harmonizing research findings.

``This is a turning point,'' said the spokesman, Da Gama. ``With drug resistance spreading, scientists will report on new advances in drugs to control malaria.''

On Friday, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates _ the world's richest man _ urged the international community to act on the mosquito-borne disease.

Gates, who believes the disease can be completely wiped out, said malaria was attracting little attention because it mostly affects poor countries.

A report on Malaria released last month showed Malaria research accounts for about one-third of 1 percent of the total amount spent on medical research and development. Gates recently pledged $258.3 million for the development of new drugs, a vaccine and better protection against mosquitos.

The latest Gates Foundation money will target three main areas. The largest chunk _ $107.6 million _ will be devoted to the most advanced experimental malaria vaccine and will cover the completion of testing in Africa and the licensing process, should the vaccine prove viable.

A promising early study in Mozambique last year found the vaccine offered partial protection for young children, cutting their risk of severe malaria by 58 percent.

Even if the vaccine does not prevent infection, it could save many lives if it proves to lessen the severity of the disease.