|Flora Mutitire and her youngest child sit on a bed with the mosquito net behind them, in Chokwe, Mozambique.|
HARARE, Zimbabwe, 24 February 2005 - The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), a strong supporter of malaria prevention across the globe, is helping Zimbabwe battle malaria with a donation of $3 million through UNICEF.
Malaria is a serious health threat in Zimbabwe. After HIV/AIDS, it is the biggest killer of children under five in Zimbabwe. The estimated one million cases of malaria each year in Zimbabwe are also a serious threat to pregnant women and newborns, the leading cause of work-absence due to illness, and a severe brake on economic growth.
Because there is no single way of preventing malaria, mosquitoes are increasingly becoming resistant to existing drugs, and an effective vaccine is considered years away, the most effective way to reduce malaria is prevention, or more specifically, insecticide-treated nets.
The money donated by DFID will be used to prevent and reduce malaria-related illness and death among children under five and pregnant women in 17 districts. It will provide 400,000 insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and boost community social mobilization. Orphans and other vulnerable children will receive special attention.
|In Zambia, a woman and child lie on a bed beneath an impregnated mosquito net in their house in the northern town of Mansa.|
A long fight
ITNs were adopted as one of the key tools for reducing the burden of malaria in Africa by Roll Back Malaria (RBM), a global partnership started in October 1998.
Zimbabwe was among the 44 countries that agreed to a goal of providing ITNs to at least 60 percent of those at risk of malaria by 2005. However, less than one in ten Zimbabwean children under five currently sleep under treated nets.
UNICEF’s experience demonstrates that with good promotion – and affordable prices – the use of bed nets can increase rapidly.
The distribution of nets must merge with the training of health personnel and education campaigns for local people so that they may inform their communities about malaria prevention. People living in malaria-endemic areas must come to value and demand ITNs.
“Education must go hand in hand with the ITNs” says UNICEF Zimbabwe’s Head of Health, Dr Juan Ortiz. “Only through combined interventions such as these will the children of Zimbabwe be rid of this scourge.”