UN-backed talks look for production boost in anti-malaria nets

23 September 2004
Mother with child ill with malaria

With one child dying every 30 seconds of malaria, health officials and business representatives gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, today for a United Nations-backed meeting on improving the availability of long-lasting insecticidal nets in a bid to prevent the disease’s spread.

The two-day meeting, organized by the Roll Back Malaria campaign with support from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and their partners, comes at a time when increasing demand for long-lasting nets is outstripping production and supply.

“The deficit is of major concern to us because of its far reaching consequences for malaria control programmes in Africa,” said Per Engebak, UNICEF’s Regional Director for eastern and southern Africa.

UNICEF, the global leader in net purchase and distribution, estimates that between 30 million to 40 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets are required annually for the next five years in order to saturate the market. Only 13 million are being made every year.

Not only is the long-lasting insecticide net cheaper in the longer term, UNICEF said, but it comes factory pre-treated and retains its repellent efficacy throughout the normal lifespan of the netting material itself, which can be anywhere between two to five years. The nets do not require re-treatment.

In contrast, conventional nets treated with insecticide require regular re-treatment to maintain their effectiveness, which has proven difficult in Africa because of several factors, including the cost and accessibility of insecticide as well as poor knowledge about the importance of the need to re-treat nets.

“This meeting will bring us into discussion with the private sector on how to increase production,” Mr. Engebak said. “A quantum leap in production will help us save millions and also enable the private sector to do good business.”


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