The World Health Organization says a new insecticide-treated mosquito net has the potential to prevent millions of people from getting malaria.

The World Health Organization says the new bed nets are a huge improvement over the existing ones.

A WHO spokeswoman, Christine McNab, says the new technology allows the insecticide to be embedded in the fabric, instead of superficially coating the fabric. As a consequence, she says the new bed nets last for up to five years, without having to be re-treated.

"The normal system of treating bed nets coats the net, and that coating wears off after some time," she said. "So, you will find people will have to then take their net, go to get it re-coated, come back. People might not do that as regularly as they should. They might not have time. They might not have the opportunity. So, this way, they have got a net, which will last a long time. They do not have to think about going to get it treated. They do not have to wonder if the treatment has actually worn off. "

Ms. McNab calls the new bed nets a crucial tool in the fight against malaria.

"You look at a million children, mainly children dying every year from malaria," said Christine McNab. "So, if this were scaled up, then the potential again would be enormous to save millions of lives, and particularly those of young children. Again 3,000 children a day in Africa alone currently die of malaria."

The new bed nets, which were invented by Japan's Sumitomo Chemical Company, cost $5 each. This is more than the $1 to $2 for the existing product.

But a spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund, Damien Personnaz, says, in the long run, the new insecticide treated bed nets will be more cost effective.

"One of the major headaches for UNICEF and other implementing agencies was to transport the bed nets to the local communities, especially in remote areas," he said. "So, the normal cost of one bed net before, plus the cost of the transportation is actually much higher than the one now, if you buy for $5. But, at least it will have a life of basically four to five years."

The WHO says a company in Tanzania has begun manufacturing the bed nets, which will make them more readily available to the people most affected by the disease.

UNICEF has purchased many of the bed nets and will be distributing them to malaria-prone communities.