( dpa )- Ray Chambers, a US entrepreneur, was appointed Thursday as the first UN special envoy for malaria tasked with if possible bringing the number of deaths from the disease to zero within five years.
Chambers was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon upon recommendation by Margaret Chan, the executive director of the World Health Organization.
The UN has had envoys for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but not malaria, which kills 3,000 children a day in Africa alone with an estimated 500 million people infected each year.
"I am fairly optimistic," Chambers said of the goal to cut the death rates to zero in two to five years. Eliminating malaria deaths by 2015 is one of the UN Millenium Development Goals.
The UN and WHO said malaria kills an estimated 1 million people per year worldwide. But worldwide efforts, both in the public and private sectors, and the medical and scientific communities, have developed ways to fight the mosquito-borne disease in tropical areas.
Chambers said one of the biggest successes in fighting malaria has been bed nets and long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect against the insect bites that spread the disease. He said the anti-malaria campaign would need 8 to 10 billion dollars in the next five years if it is to succeed.
Governments and corporations that are actively contributing to the fight include the US government; the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria; The World Bank Booster Programme for Malaria Control in Africa; the UN Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.