Nets save 125 000 from malaria

Some 125 000 malaria deaths were averted in 10 African countries between 2001 and 2007, thanks to increased use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, a UN Children's Fund report said Friday.

That represents one eighth of the estimated one million deaths which the World Health Organisation blamed on malaria in 2006. "A new phase in the fight against malaria has begun," the UNICEF report said.

"We are witnessing substantial increases in coverage of key interventions, notably insecticide-treated nets," said the report due to be presented at a meeting here Friday. According to UNICEF, the use of insecticide-treated nets – one of the most effective ways of preventing malaria - has increased at least threefold since 2000 in 19 of 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that collect data on malaria.

Insecticide-treated nets
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest number of malaria deaths, most of them in children under age five. Countries in the hard-hit region have scaled up the use of insecticide-treated nets by young children from just two percent in 2000 to 20% in 2006, the report said.

But although there have been welcome and dramatic increases in net use, inequalities remain in the distribution and use of the potentially life-saving, simple and inexpensive malaria-prevention tool.

"Net use still falls short of global targets in rural areas or in the poorest households," the report said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set a December 31, 2010 deadline for countries where the disease is endemic to achieve universal coverage with key malaria control interventions, such as insecticide-treated nets.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, jazz musician Quincy Jones and UNICEF head Ann Veneman were among participants expected to take part in the meeting Friday in Washington, where the report will be released. – (Sapa-AFP, April 2009)

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