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Two million cases reported in PNG each year

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 4, 2008) - Malaria, the age-old disease, continues to be one of Papua New Guinea’s major killers.

Every year, a total of two million cases of malaria are reported at the health facilities with increasing numbers of cases being found in the Highlands region where it was rarely heard of in the past.

Health Secretary Dr. Clement Malau said in Port Moresby yesterday that health facilities were reporting 600 recorded deaths every year, but the real figure was not known because no one knew how many people were dying from malaria at home and in remote parts of the country where people could not get to health facilities. Dr. Malau was speaking at a signing ceremony in Port Moresby yesterday where the Japanese Government through its embassy signed a grant of US$77,853 [about PGK217,295] to assist PNG in its efforts to fight malaria.

The funds were from its Grant Assistance for Grassroots human security projects.

He said there was a need for better diagnosis of malaria so that it was effectively treated, especially in the Highlands where there was often confusion between this disease and typhoid.

The money will be used to renovate buildings and upgrade a laboratory and training equipment of the Malaria Surveillance and Control Unit (MSU) in Goroka, Eastern Highlands. When thanking the Japanese Ambassador to PNG Kanji Hanagata, his government and the people of Japan for the financial assistance, MSCU acting manager Leo Yalla said the MSCU was initially built in 1970s and had not been given a good renovation until now, the building had deteriorated, the rain leaked through the roof and the floor tiles were coming off.

He feared that a fire could start from the building if the electrical wiring got exposed to the rain and was glad the Japanese Government was coming to assist with the renovation of the building.

Mr. Yalla said while the Health Department was receiving help in the malaria programs from other donors, including The Global Fund, the renovation of the MSCU provided the base from which those involved in the malaria programs such as mosquito net distributions could launch out to assist people in all Highlands areas where malaria cases were increasing every year.

He said there was a need for better surveillance of the disease.

Mr. Hanagata said he was aware of the financial constraints that prevented the MSCU from responding to the urgent need for improvement with technicians to perform clinical tests in the diagnosis and the treatment of malaria and was glad the Japanese Government could assist.

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