The leading child killer
Malaria is the leading killer of children in Mozambique. About 36,000 children die from malaria every year and the disease accounts for 40 per cent of all out-patient consultations and up to 60 per cent of in-patients in paediatric wards.
There are three principal ways in which malaria can contribute to death in young children. First, an overwhelming acute infection, which frequently manifests as seizures or coma, may kill a child directly and quickly.
Second, repeated malaria infections contribute to the development of severe anaemia, which substantially increases the risk of death.
Third, low birth weight – frequently the consequence of malaria infection in pregnant women – is a major risk factor for death in the first month of life.
A risk to mothers
Malaria is also a health risk to pregnant women as it has adverse effects on both the mother and the unborn child, including maternal anaemia, foetal loss, premature delivery and low birth weight babies. Malaria contributes to maternal mortality when it compounds conditions such as tuberculosis, HIV infection, malnutrition and iron deficiency.
Prevention better than cure
One of the best ways to prevent malaria, together with house spraying with insecticides, is to sleep at night under an insecticide-treated bed net or the newer long-lasting insecticidal nets, which do not need retreatment. Mozambique has a widespread programme for the distribution and promotion of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
What is being done
Between 2000 and 2009, UNICEF supported the distribution of 2.9 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to pregnant women, children under five, orphaned and vulnerable children and people living with HIV across the country, out of a total of over 6 million nets distributed by various partners.
By 2009, pregnant women in all provinces except Maputo received a long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets through antenantal services.
The UNICEF-supported programme complements the government’s Indoor Residual Spraying programme.
The insecticide-treated mosquito nets are distributed free of charge to pregnant women through routine antenatal care services in health facilities and to children under five through health campaigns.
UNICEF has worked with the Ministry of Health and a range of partners to develop a cost effective strategy of mosquito nets distribution at district level under the management of District Health Teams.
UNICEF is also supporting the Ministry of Health in the procurement of anti-malarial drugs, through the UNITAID initiative, and is exploring with the Ministry of Health the possibility of embarking on procurement services for large quantities of long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets, aiming at universal coverage.
The way forward
Between 2010 and 2011, UNICEF will continue to support the Ministry of Health in expanding the coverage of long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets and other malaria prevention and treatment methods in two main areas of interventions.
Strengthening planning and service delivery capacity at district level
Support national policy development, coordination and setting standards and norms