Anti-Malaria Campaign in Africa on Track to Save Lives

Washington – A coalition of international partners is on track to distribute 18 million insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) in Africa in 2006, an anti-disease effort that could save hundreds of thousands of lives from the often fatal malady transmitted by mosquitoes.

Roll Back Malaria (RBM) is a coalition formed in 1998 by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.N. Development Programme, and the World Bank. It receives support from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative.

More than 18 million ITNs are being distributed for free in 2006, with a campaign in Kenya handing out 1.7 million nets alone in July, according to an RBM press release. Another 1.7 million ITNs will be distributed in August. At the same time, the campaign is aiming to reach more than 5 million children under 5 with measles vaccinations.

ITNs are considered one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria, caused by four species of Plasmodium protozoa, which are transmitted to a person through mosquito bites, mainly between dusk and dawn.

Malaria causes almost 1 million deaths worldwide per year, according to estimates, with the vast number of those deaths occurring among young children in Africa. The incidence of malaria worldwide is about 300 million clinical cases each year with about 90 percent of those cases occurring in countries of tropical Africa.

Angola, Ethiopia and Rwanda join Kenya in implementing integrated campaigns, which distribute bed nets along with other preventive health measures such as measles vaccinations or Vitamin A supplements. The RBM press release says several more countries are expected to launch similar integrated children’s health initiatives in the coming months, including Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

“RBM recognizes that we are on the verge of turning the tide on malaria and we will continue to work hard with malaria-endemic countries, the multilateral agencies, donor countries, the private sector, NGOs and community based organizations, foundations, research and academic institutions, and our other partners to make sure this opportunity is not lost,” said Dr. Awa Coll-Seck, executive secretary of the RBM Partnership.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), announced in 2005, is a $1.2 billion, five-year collaboration of several government agencies attempting to take a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating malaria. The program currently targets seven high-risk African nations, with a goal to reduce malaria in Africa by 50 percent by 2010.  (See related article.)

For additional information, see Malaria.