Africa Malaria Day: fighting the main child killer
Maputo, 23 April 2007- On 25 April of every year, African countries highlight the efforts that are being made to combat malaria in on the continent. The theme for this year’s Africa Malaria Day celebrations is Leadership and Partnership for Results.
As in many other African countries, malaria is endemic throughout Mozambique, where the climate favours year-round transmission in most parts of country. Malaria remains the biggest public health problem and is the biggest killer of children in Mozambique – it accounts for about 25 per cent of child deaths and 60 per cent of child paediatric hospital admissions in the country. Malaria is also serious for pregnant women, who run the risk of severe anaemia, and can lead to a low birth weight of the child.
As part of the response, leadership and partnership have been of paramount importance in the national efforts against the disease. The Ministry of Health has assigned high priority to malaria control, and with support from UNICEF and other partners, has been working to prevent and control the incidence of malaria and provide treatment for vulnerable people.
For the control and prevention, the National Malarial Control Programme is rapidly scaling up the use of Indoor Residual house Spraying (IRS) and Insecticide Treated Nets (ITN) or the more recent Long Lasting Insecticidal Net (LLIN) programme. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ITNs can cut malaria transmission by at least 60 per cent and child deaths by a fifth if the nets are used properly. Nevertheless, ITNs must be used along with improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
To improve treatment, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) has recently been introduced as first line treatment and it is expected that it will be gradually expanded throughout the country.
UNICEF works closely with the Ministry of Health on all aspects of malaria control, prevention and treatment, providing technical assistance, leveraging funds for the procurement of ITNs and LLINs and anti-malaria drugs and also helping to promote the use of nets through social mobilisation campaigns.
Since 2000, UNICEF has been the leading agency in Mozambique in the distribution of ITNs and LLINs. Some 2.1 million ITNs have been distributed since then through the public health systems, with about 65 per cent of these being delivered through UNICEF-supported programmes in about 86 districts in the country. Nets are distributed free of charge to pregnant women through antenatal services and to children under the age of five through mobile teams.