Distribution of more than 18 million malaria bednets in Africa

Roll Back Malaria Partners are supporting mass distribution of malaria bednets to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from malaria in many endemic countries.

More than 18 million free ITNs are expected to be distributed this year in Africa as part of joint malaria / measles vaccine campaigns designed to reach millions of children. RBM estimates that this will translate into over half a million lives saved.

Earlier this month, Kenya distributed 1.7 million nets in the first phase of a campaign funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM) to increase the number of children sleeping under ITNs to more than 70%. The campaign was launched alongside a measles vaccination campaign that aims to reach more than five million children ages nine months to five years. Another 1.7 million ITNs will be distributed during the second phase of the campaign this coming August.

Kenya is just one of several countries -- including Angola, Ethiopia, Rwanda -- implementing integrated campaigns, which distribute bednets alongside other child health interventions such as measles vaccination and vitamin A distribution. More than 18 million ITNs will be distributed this year, preventing 300,000 childhood malaria deaths over the next three years.

RBM partners play a key role in supporting ITN distribution in these countries to save the lives of children. "Tightly knit partnerships enable the GFATM, the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), and other funding agencies to realize their goals of reaching vulnerable children to prevent deaths due to malaria," said Dr. Awa Coll-Seck, Executive Secretary of the RBM Partnership Secretariat in Geneva.

Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. Cost-effective ITNs, indoor residual spraying of insecticides, intermittent preventive therapy for pregnant women, and Artemisinin-combination therapies for treating malaria are tools available to keep malaria from taking its toll on families in the developing world. Recent boosts in funding from the U.S. and other multilateral agencies such as GFATM and the World Bank are providing a unique opportunity to significantly reduce the number of infections as well as deaths from this preventable and treatable infectious disease.

"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," Coll-Seck said. "We look forward to activating our networks and working closely with PMI as it works to cut malaria-related deaths by 50% in fifteen African countries.

Several more countries are expected to launch similar integrated initiatives in the coming months, including Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. In addition to Kenya, the following countries included ITN distribution in child health campaigns:

  • Angola: The government of Angola, the Measles Initiative, GFATM, and PMI launched a major integrated health campaign this month that targets more than 3.5 million children with measles and polio vaccinations, vitamin A, deworming medication, and, in seven provinces, long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs).
  • Niger: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Government of Niger delivered more than 2 million mosquito nets in December 2005 and March 2006 as part of an integrated campaign to prevent malaria and polio.
  • Togo: In December 2004, a one-week integrated campaign led by the Measles Initiative and the Togolese Ministry of Health provided measles, polio, deworming medication and insecticide treated bednets to 900,000 children in all six regions of the country. A total of 730,000 nets were distributed, raising ITN coverage from 8% to 62.5%, and the campaign reached 96% of eligible children.
  • Zambia: In 2003, the Zambian Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian International Development Agency, conducted a campaign integrating measles vaccination, ITN distribution, vitamin A supplementation and deworming medication in five underserved districts of Zambia. All households with children under 5 years of age were given an ITN, and coverage rose to 80% after the six day campaign.

To provide a coordinated international approach to fighting malaria, RBM was launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The Partnership now brings together governments of countries affected by malaria, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions around the common goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010.

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