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Will efforts to eradicate the killer disease overcome technical, finanicial and political obstacles? The global death toll from malaria has dropped dramatically in just over a decade – more than 25 per cent overall and 33 per cent in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Yet the WHO reckons that malaria still kills more than 625,000 people a year – roughly equal to the population of Vancouver – and some estimates, including one published two years ago by The Lancet, suggests that the WHO’s figures reflect only about half the actual total. As well, country-by-country statistics make clear that progress in combating this killer disease is both fragile and spotty. For example, while the number of deaths reported in Tanzania plummeted from more than 20,000 in 2005 to just 840 in 2009, next door in the Democratic Republic of Congo the toll soared from fewer than 15,000 to well over 20,000 in the same period.

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