Wider distribution of insecticide-treated nets and more effective treatment for malaria has fuelled significant progress in sub-Saharan Africa’s fight against the disease, which kills at least 800,000 children under the age of five every year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.
Malaria and Children, a new report prepared by UNICEF on behalf of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, shows a rapid increase in the supply of insecticide-treated nets from 2004 to 2006, with annual production of nets more than doubling from 30 to 63 million.
The number of nets acquired by UNICEF more than tripled between 2004 and 2006 to nearly 25 million and is more than 20 times greater today than in 2000, the agency said in a news release.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private partnership that provides health funding, has also increased its distribution of nets from 1.35 million in 2004 to 18 million in 2006, and other major donors have scaled up their activities.
In addition to the increase in supply, there have also been improvements in distributing the nets to those communities in greatest need, including by incorporating the process into existing maternal and child health programmes.
The 20 sub-Saharan African countries for which data are available have made major progress in expanding the use of the nets for children, with 16 of them having at least tripled their coverage since 2000.
The report also reveals that nearly all sub-Saharan African countries have changed their national drug policies to support the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies, a new and more effective malaria treatment.
However, the overall usage of nets still falls short of global targets and not enough children are receiving effective treatment, the report adds, stressing the need for greater commitments by donors and bolder efforts by national governments to accelerate the scaling up of malaria programmes.
“Controlling malaria is vital to improving child health and economic development in affected countries,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “Studies show that malaria disproportionately affects the poorest people in these countries, and so contributes to their further impoverishment.”