From: Reuters
Published February 14, 2008 04:56 PM

U.S. businessman to head U.N. malaria drive

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations appointed businessman and philanthropist Ray Chambers on Thursday as special envoy for malaria to lead an ambitious bid to slash deaths from the disease in the next few years.

The mosquito-borne disease kills an estimated 1 million people a year, many of them in Africa.

A U.N. statement said Chambers would help Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "to raise the issue of malaria on the international political and development agendas including by doing all in his power to reduce child deaths from the disease."

Chambers, 65, told a U.N. news conference he foresaw a "massive public-private partnership" to raise $8 billion to 10 billion over the next four to five years from donor countries, companies and international and nongovernmental organizations.

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"What the secretary-general has charged me with is working out what we can do in the next two years, the next three years, the next five years to get mortality from malaria as close to zero as possible," he said.

He said complete eradication of the disease would probably require a 20-year plan and development of a vaccine.

Work is proceeding on a vaccine but none is yet in use. U.N. experts said in a report released last October that more African children were getting insecticide-treated bed nets in their homes and more were being treated for malaria.

Chambers, with former Treasury Secretary William Simon, founded Wesray Capital Corp, one of the most successful leveraged-buyout firms of the 1980s.

He subsequently went into philanthropy, including founding the Malaria No More group and helping organize a White House anti-malaria event in December 2006.

Chambers said he became interested in malaria while visiting Africa to promote the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, aimed at halving poverty by 2015.

During a visit to Rwanda's genocide museum, "the thought struck me while I was in the museum that with all these children dying from malaria, might that be a genocide of sorts, perhaps a genocide of apathy?" he said.

In a statement, World Health Organization director-general Margaret Chan said Chambers "has the passion, experience and commitment the world needs right now to secure the political will and the funds needed to profoundly reduce this threat."

The United Nations already has special envoys for AIDS and tuberculosis.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

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