2006/07/02

Chaka Chaka: Wage war against malaria

South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka urged world leaders Saturday to wage war against malaria as she paid emotional tribute to a band member who died two years ago of the disease, which kills more than a million people every year.

Phumzile Ntuli was infected while on tour with Chaka Chaka in Gabon in 2004. Upon her return to South Africa, she fell into a coma, from which she never recovered.

"Malaria robbed South Africa of a wonderful musician; it robbed her son Menzi of his mother, her family of their daughter and me of a friend I valued and trusted," Chaka Chaka said at a memorial service in Durban intended to highlight the threat as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria meets there to evaluate progress curbing the epidemics.

"But the real tragedy here is that her death was avoidable. She did not have to die, because malaria is preventable, treatable and curable."

Malaria, which is caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, remains the biggest killer of children in Africa.

Programs supported by the Global Fund have distributed 11.3 million insecticide-treated bed nets, among the most effective ways to ward against malaria, and are poised to rapidly scale up prevention efforts globally. However, the fund has a $800,000 shortfall for new grants in 2006.

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