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U.S. Steps Up Commitment To Fight Malaria

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The White House is stepping up its commitment to fighting a disease that still kills roughly 600,000 people around the world each year. The Obama administration has announced a six-year extension of a program to fight malaria. NPR's Jason Beaubien has more.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The new malaria money from the White House is going into the President's malaria initiative, which was launched a decade ago by George W. Bush. The original goal was to cut malaria deaths in half in 19 African countries. While that ambitious target hasn't yet been met, Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, the head of the Global Roll Back Malaria Partnership, says the president's malaria initiative has had a major impact.

FATOUMATA NAFO-TRAORE: Tremendous progress has been made, particularly in the last 10 years.

BEAUBIEN: The overall death toll is going down. But according to the World Health Organization, there were 200 million cases of the mosquito-borne disease last year alone. Dr. Nafo says when she was going up in Mali in West Africa, she'd sometimes get malaria two or three times a year.

NAFO-TRAORE: It's a horrible situation, with a high temperature, sweating, muscular pain, chill.

BEAUBIEN: Beyond just how awful malaria makes you feel, it's a huge burden on African health systems, mainly among children under the age of 5.

NAFO-TRAORE: If you look at the situation in most of the African countries, you go to the intensive care unit. Seventy percent of under 5 years are suffering from malaria.

BEAUBIEN: It also remains a major problem in Haiti. The CDC yesterday announced a new plan to wipe out the disease entirely from the island of Hispaniola over the next five years. Jason Beaubien, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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