The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria reports nearly every family with children in Africa soon could have a bed net to protect against malaria. The Geneva-based Global Fund says it has delivered 46 million insecticide-treated bed nets to families in malaria zones, a 155 percent increase over last year's result of 18 million. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.
The Global Fund says insecticide-treated bed nets are one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent malaria transmission.
Recently published studies show a combination of bed nets and treatment can reduce malaria transmission by as much as 90 percent in areas with high coverage rates.
Executive director of the Global Fund, Michel Kazatchkine, tells VOA that Zanzibar has just achieved this goal and other countries in Africa also are making significant progress.
"For example, in the southern provinces of Zambia, we now have seen a decrease by 90 percent in malaria deaths between 2001 and 2006," he said. "In Eritrea, despite the political situation, a 70 percent decline of malaria cases since 2001. In a number of pilot districts in Tanzania where bed nets are distributed and ACT's are widely given, a decline by over 50 percent in under-five mortality has been observed."
Dr. Kazatchkine says many countries have reached 60 percent coverage of families. He says mortality or morbidity of small children and pregnant women is significantly reduced in countries that achieve this threshold.
He says countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda have dramatically increased the delivery of bed nets through Global Fund financing.
But, he warns against complacency. He says more than one million people still die each year from malaria. He notes many areas in Africa such as Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo do not have access to bed nets.
"I believe we are on the right track. That is the message today," he said. "We are not yet there, of course, but we are on the right track. I am convinced that if we stay strong with this effort within three to five years, we can very drastically reduce malaria as a public health problem in many endemic countries in the developing world."
One bed net costs $5. The Global Fund has approved $3.6 billion over five years for 146 programs to fight malaria in 78 countries. The money will pay for bed nets and for drugs to treat people suffering from malaria.