18 Jun 2008

PNG, Solomons, Vanuatu on track to be malaria-free by 2015 - Australian aid commitment

7:04 pm on 18 June 2008

Australia's aid agency says Pacific countries hit hardest by malaria will be disease-free by 2015 if aggressive action to combat the problem continues.

Professor Sir Richard Feachem, the chair of AusAID's malaria reference group, has painted a bright picture of the outlook to clear deadly malaria from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Melanesia has the highest incidence of the mosquito-borne illness outside Africa, and malaria remains the biggest killer of children in those countries.

Professor Feachem says the news so far is positive.

He says money and plans are in place, and this year should bring results.

Plans are afoot to distribute chemically treated mosquito nets in the Solomons, and blood samples taken from 5,000 Vanuatu children confirmed the prevalence of the disease was as low as three per cent.

Work is under way to recruit staff and make available new third-generation drugs based on Chinese traditional medicine.