Nets boost Africa's malaria fight

Society Materials 17 October 2007 06:33

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa are making significant progress in fighting malaria, new statistics from Unicef and the World Health Organisation show.

Distribution of mosquito nets, widely regarded as the most effective prevention against malaria, has grown substantially across the region.

But the new Unicef report also reveals that fewer children are getting access to treatments for the disease.

Every year, 800,000 African children under the age of five die from malaria.

Experts agree the simplest, most cost-effective way to prevent those deaths is the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.

Studies show that in countries where they are in use, malaria deaths have dropped by half.

The new report from the UN children's fund reveals that since 2004 the annual production of bed nets has more than doubled, and since the year 2000, of the 20 sub-Saharan countries being monitored, 16 have tripled their distribution of nets.

In Gambia, half of all children now have bed nets.

Ethiopia has distributed 18m in the last two years alone.

But while Unicef and the WHO are pleased with the progress in preventative measures, the death toll among African children remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, fewer children are receiving life-saving drugs if they do get malaria.

This is because most African countries have followed WHO advice and phased out older treatments which had become ineffective - but have not yet brought in the newer, more expensive malaria treatment drugs.

But, the WHO says, increased production of the new treatments is now bringing prices down. ( BBC )