Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Biting Back Against Malaria

In my December 27, 2009 blog post, I outlined the efforts made in combating malaria in Angola, the country's main medical killer; the principal cause of morbidity and mortality in the country especially among children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. Yet despite its shocking prevalence, there is a simple and effective way to begin to control the disease from spreading:  sleep under a mosquito net.

In the last decade, a massive drive has been underway throughout the whole African continent to distribute millions of free nets.  In 2005, the USA set up the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), run by USAID and Angola was selected as one of the first countries to be targeted.  Since then, the PMI has spent more than $63 million on fighting malaria in Angola, including the distribution of three million nets.

The results so far have been positive. A 2006 survey showed that usage of insecticide-treated nets in Angola increased from less than 2% in 2001 to over 18% in 2006. 

As the number of nets distributed goes up, so the number of cases malaria and deaths related to the disease is going down.  According to Filomeno Fortes, the national coordinator for the Angolan government's anti-malaria campaign, there were 3.1 million cases of malaria in the country in 2009, down from more than 3.4 million in 2008. Deaths are also down from 25,000 in 2003 to just over 7,000 in the last 12 months.

Dr. Koenraad Vanormelingen, Unicef representative in Angola, says that mosquito nets not only protect those sleeping under them, but also help reduce the number of moquitoes in the region.  "Communities with large-scale coverage of insecticide treated nets have 50% less malaria, but also 80% fewer malarial mosquitos.  So if you sleep under a net, you are actually helping to reduce the number of mosquitos in the environment." (excerpted from Sonangol Universo Magazine, June 2010 edition, Nina Hobson)

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