London, 24 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a drive aimed at sharply reducing the incidence of malaria in Azerbaijan, and to prevent it from spreading to neighboring Caucasus and Central Asian countries.
Last year Azerbaijan reported more than 5,000 cases of malaria. Health experts have warned that, without preventative measures, that figure could climb to 20,000 cases this year.
The WHO initiative, announced at the weekend, will strengthen the work of 100 malaria control stations in Azerbaijan. The multi-million dollar project is being funded by the Italian oil and gas company, Eni, which is involved in energy projects in the region.
The three-year project aims to support the Ministry of Health in Azerbaijan by providing anti-malarial drugs, insecticides and spraying equipment and laboratory equipment. It will also lead to additional training for public health officials.
The project aims to reduce the incidence of malaria by half in locations where the disease has recently taken hold.
Sergei Litvinov, a doctor with the WHO's regional office for Europe said countries such as Azerbaijan face a critical problem in preventing the spread of infectious diseases which can be a formidable obstacle to development prospects. The initiative was welcomed by Azerbaijan's Health Minister, Ali Insanov.