"In recent years, several African countries have made dramatic strides in malaria control, but the most affected nations remain off track to reach the goal of halting and reversing the incidence of the disease," he said.
 
"We need desperately to step up our efforts to roll back malaria."

More than 40 per cent of the world's population in more than 100 countries is at risk of catching the mosquito-borne disease.

Although malaria kills most of its victims in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease also hits people in much of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Fresh targets

Ban and Ray Chambers, his special envoy for malaria, said they wanted all African countries to have enough mosquito nets or quality household sprays for the entire population by December 31, 2010, along with sufficient malaria clinics and preventative treatment centres for high-risk pregnant women.

"This challenge is a clarion call to hurry up and eliminate malaria deaths," said Chambers.

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The US National Institutes of Health said in a separate statement that malaria has proven to be "remarkably resilient, resurging because of the emergence of drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes".

Earlier this month, the WHO said climate change may exacerbate health crises, including malaria, in many countries already strained by inadequate hospitals, too few medical staff and uneven access to drugs.

It said new patterns of global rainfall, droughts and storms could accelerate the spread of diseases like malaria and dengue fever in some regions, creating serious problems for poor nations.

Development goals

A UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG), aimed at halving poverty and improving the quality of life worldwide by 2015, is slowing the rise of malaria, HIV/Aids, and other diseases.

In his statement, Ban said: "Malaria still kills more than one million people every year ... The toll it is taking is unacceptable - all the more so because malaria is preventable and treatable.

Ban said Africa had fallen
behind MDG goals [AFP]
"Today, together with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, I am putting forward a bold but achievable vision."

The Roll Back Malaria initiative was launched in 1998 by the WHO and its partners with the goal of reducing malaria deaths by half by 2010.

At the midway point, when they assessed their accomplishments, analysts from the partnership found that there were more malaria cases than when they had started.

Key interventions included distributing bed nets and using more insecticides, but only about two per cent of African children sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets.

Ban and the partnership decided that they want to tackle the problem on a larger scale.

"What we're doing at the behest of the secretary-general is a scale-up like nothing ever seen before,'' Chambers said.

"He's able to call for that because we have the best technology ... And we have significantly more funding available than ever before in history,'' he said.

But Ban urged caution.

"We have the resources and the know-how, but we have less than 1,000 days before the end of 2010," he said.

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