World Vision is pressing the U.K. government to put communities at the heart of its efforts to tackle malaria.
The call comes on World Malaria Day today, when campaigners worldwide are raising awareness of the goal to achieve zero malaria deaths by 2015.
According to the statistics of campaign group Spread the Net, more than 3,000 African children die each day from malaria, while worldwide, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.
Organizers of World Malaria Day say that the number of people dying each year from malaria has fallen in recent years from over a million to around 790,000, thanks to increased support for control preventions such as the mass distribution of insecticidal nets.
They warn, however, that there are still hundreds of thousands of people contracting malaria who are unable to access adequate treatment.
According to research conducted by World Vision, around 85 percent of all deaths from malaria occur among children.
David Thomson, director of policy and programs at World Vision UK, said that although “huge strides” had been made in tackling malaria in the last few years, the UK Government should “not be complacent.”
The Christian development agency says that communities are “key” to reducing the staggering death toll, particularly community health workers.
It wants the U.K. government to ensure that national governments invest in supporting families and communities to respond to their own health needs.
World Vision has worked successfully against malaria in Senegal, where the illness is common.
It partnered with the Senegalese government and communities to launch the "Roll Back Malaria Partnership," in which World Vision staff distributed mosquito nets and offered families help to use them correctly – including, vitally, the need to sleep under a net every night.
In the three years since the partnership was launched, there has been more than a 10 percent drop in suspected malaria cases in children and one town, Wali, has been completely free from the disease.
World Vision said community health workers must be equipped with the ability to properly diagnose malaria and the equipment to effectively treat it.
“Although distributing mosquito nets is important, if people don’t know how to use them it’s not money well spent," Thomson said. “The distribution of nets must be accompanied by helping people learn how to use them, training health care workers and encouraging mothers to seek treatment when they or their children become ill.
“It is vital that gains made are not lost.”