Nets are key to cutting malaria deaths and illness – UNICEF
NEW YORK, 25 April 2013 – Malaria still kills 660,000 people every year, most of them African children. Universal coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets is key in making gains against malaria – one of the largest killers of children in the world in the world, says UNICEF on World Malaria day.
With partners, UNICEF champions and supports governments to undertake the free distribution of insecticide-treated nets – especially long-lasting insecticidal nets. When universal coverage – one net for every two people – is reached this simple, effective barrier can reduce child mortality by up to 20 per cent.
UNICEF supports national efforts to train and provide community health workers with simple tools such as malaria rapid diagnostic tests so that children receive medicine quickly when needed. However, in Africa the proportion of treated children who receive a first-line treatment such as an ACT is less than 30 percent in most countries.
UNICEF, with governments, donors and other partners, also looks for innovative ways to reach the most vulnerable and hardest to reach children in pursuit of universal coverage. For example, in addition to free net distributions during mass campaigns in the poorest and most remote areas, nets are also provided to children during routine immunizations and to pregnant women during ante-natal check-ups. UNICEF is also stepping up its efforts on integrated community case management, which brings a package of life-saving interventions closer to children, families and homes.
It is estimated that enough nets were delivered over the last decade to cover 80 per cent of requirements in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many nets however are reaching the end of their useful life and must be replaced. Countries that had already reduced their malaria burdens by up to 50 per cent can quickly detect increased cases and deaths due to malaria if old, worn-out nets are not replaced.
From 2000 to 2010, the proportion of children sleeping under an insecticide-treated net in sub-Saharan Africa grew from less than 5 per cent to over a third. But global procurement of long-lasting lasting insecticidal nets has dropped by 52 per cent against an annual target requirement of 150 million. Such a slowdown risks gravely undermining the gains to date.
“We have made considerable progress in this fight, but cannot take our eyes off the goal of reducing malaria cases and deaths to zero. We must make sure that countries have the funding they need for malaria control and use it to protect their children and expectant mothers,” Mr. Alipui added.
Fighting malaria not only saves the lives of children, but also yields many other health and economic benefits for affected communities. For example, reducing malaria improves the health of pregnant mothers and therefore their newborn babies, reduces school and work absenteeism. Eliminating malaria reduces the burden on over-stretched health centres. It is estimated there is a 40-fold return for every US$1 spent controlling malaria in Africa.
There have been impressive gains and successes built on strong partnerships and the generous contributions of many donors – but these gains can be quickly lost if sustained focus and investments are not maintained.
UNICEF is one of the world’s largest global procurers and deliverers of long-lasting insecticide treated nets with over 200 million nets procured between 2000 and 2012 in over 40 countries. UNICEF is also a recognized leader in monitoring and evaluation of malaria control activities and is focusing on improving data quality in country. As a lead procurer of medicines and life-saving commodities for children, UNICEF is using its market shaping power to ensure increased access and affordability.
For further information, please contact:
Peter Smerdon, UNICEF New York,