Health - League Table

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Import taxes push up the price of bednets

Taxing malaria protection
Countries known to charge duties on imported bednets:*
Per cent tariff
Namibia
Eritrea
Yemen
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Zambia
Bolivia
Djibouti
Benin
Burundi
Cameroon
Mozambique
Gabon
Senegal
8
13
15
18
25
25
30
33
36
36
50
50
53
65
* Among 74 malaria-endemic countries responding to the survey.
Source: UNICEF, 1998.
Families at risk of malaria in at least 14 countries must pay more to protect themselves from the disease because their governments impose tariffs on imported bednets. The nets, which cost from $4 to $15 before import duties, are already a heavy expense for families in the poorest countries, where monthly earnings average $30 per capita or less. The tariffs, which range from 8% to 65%, make the financial burden even more severe.

Malaria kills over 1 million children under the age of 5 every year -- a child every 30 seconds -- in about 100 malaria-endemic countries around the world. Of the 74 countries responding to a recent UNICEF survey, 56 have bednets for sale. The nets are imported in 40 countries, and of these, 14 are known to impose tariffs. All but two of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Senegal has the highest tariff, at 65%, and six other countries in sub-Saharan Africa impose tariffs of 30% or more. Yet the region accounts for about 90% of all malaria-related deaths, and, on average, children suffer six bouts of the disease a year.

A study in the Gambia found that malaria deaths among children could be reduced by around 25% if children slept under treated bednets. Such protection against malaria-carrying mosquitoes is vital, as the disease is increasingly resistant to drug treatment, and the development of an effective vaccine is proving difficult.

Copyright © UNICEF/Pirozzi

In Sao Tome and Principe, bednets are laid out to dry after treatment with insecticide. They will protect families from mosquitoes carrying malaria, which kills over 1 million children under age 5 each year worldwide.

Backing WHO's campaign to combat malaria, UNICEF has adopted three related goals: to have 20% of children under 5 in high-risk areas sleeping under bednets by the year 2000, 50% by 2005 and universal access to bednets by 2010. Steps to cut the cost of bednets, including the removal of import tariffs, will be crucial to the success of the campaign.

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