Useless malaria drugs are no better than Smarties

There are dire warnings about the impact of malaria worldwide and particularly in Africa - just to give you a snapshot for example, in countries like Zimbabwe and Mozambique those two countries are in a state of high alert at the moment after the rainy season. So too in Kenya where there is fear of a new outbreak. And in the tiny central African country of Burundi, malaria has become the major cause of death. There were 200,000 people dying there as a result of malaria in 1984. Last year that figure had risen to two million. Let me give you an idea about the scale of the problem across the continent. First of all, more than 3,000 children in Africa die every day. Malaria kills more children in Africa than HIV/AIDS and 90% of the deaths from malaria are in Africa - sub-Saharan Africa and most of those deaths are children under the age of five.
First broadcast on the BBC World Service (opens new browser window), a transcript of an interview between the BBC and MSF spokesperson Dr Christa Hook, a malaria specialist for MSF. BBC: With me here now is Dr. Christa Hook, who is from Médecins Sans Frontieres. Where should the emphasis be in tackling malaria at the moment? Is it prevention? Is it a cure? MSF: Both are very important but we feel that the emphasis ha been placed on prevention maybe to the exclusion of the emphasis that is needed to be on cure. Prevention alone will never deal with malaria. It also means that we have to have good treatment for malaria and that treatment at the moment is not being used. BBC: Too many people in Africa do not have access to the right drugs. Is that right? MSF:That is right. They have access to cheap drugs and there is a lot of effort going in to making sure there access to cheap drugs is closer and closer to home. This is good except that the cheap drugs are not much more use than giving them Smarties at home if they don't work. And that is the problem. So many of these drugs no longer work in Africa. BBC: So how much of a problem is it that a drug like chloroquine, which was the cheapest and most widely used drug, is no longer effective. MSF:It is a huge impact in Africa. There are studies in Senegal for example which shows that the death rate from malaria has increased three or four times during the time that resistance to chloroquine has been rising in the last ten years. So it has a huge impact and a huge impact on a number of people who get sick as well.