Bush unveils 5.2m-bednet plan to fight malaria
The East African
Special Correspondent
25 February 2008

Article link: http://www.nationmedia.com/eastafrican/current/News/news2502083.htm

Article text:

US President George W Bush last week unveiled a new plan to distribute 5.2 million free bednets in Tanzania. The nationwide programme will provide nets to protect every child between the ages of one and five.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce new steps in the bednet campaign. Within the next six months, the United States and Tanzania, in partnership with the World Bank and the Global Fund, will begin distributing 5.2 million free bednets,” he said while visiting Mount Meru Hospital in northern Tanzania during his four-day trip to the country.

The bednet campaign is supported by Tanzanian manufacturers, including A to Z Textile Mills, which the president visited later in the day.

The campaign is designed to protect women and children from malaria, and to also boost local economies through investments in the manufacture and treatment of the nets.

“It helps develop a culture of bednet use that will be sustained long after relief programmes have ended,” he said.

In 2005, President Bush said he wanted to see the US work to save lives through the President’s Malaria Initiative.

Under the five-year plan, $1.2 billion programme, the US is working with 15 African countries to cut malaria-related deaths by half.

The initiative supports indoor residual spraying to kill mosquitoes, where spraying campaigns in Tanzania have reached hundreds of thousands of homes, and have protected more than one million people.

The initiative also supports treatment for the most vulnerable, especially pregnant women, whereby more than 2,400 Tanzanian health workers have been trained to provide specialised treatment.

The initiative supports the distribution of insecticide-treated bednets. The US, the Tanzania government and other partners such as the UN Global Fund have worked to provide bed net vouchers for infants and pregnant mothers.

Women use the vouchers to buy bednets at local shops at a discount. So far, an estimated five million vouchers have been distributed through this programme.

The initiative has been a success story in Zanzibar where malaria infections among infants have dropped from about 20 per cent to less than 1 per cent.

President Jakaya Kikwete said that while 500,000 malaria patients were treated in the outpatient clinics in 2004, only 10,000 had been treated in 2007. In 2004, about 40 per cent of patients tested positive for malaria in the Isles while in 2007, only 5 per cent tested positive. When the blood slides were taken, 35 per cent tested positive for malaria in 2004; in 2007, only 1 per cent were positive.

The achievement is attributed to strong leadership of the Zanzibar Malaria Control Programme and the support of donors such as the Global Fund, WHO and the President’s Initiative.

A to Z Textile Mills, which manufactures long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN), recently entered into a joint venture with Tokyo-based Sumitomo Chemicals to manufacture Olyset Nets.

Olyset nets remain the only LLIN to have passed all four stages of the evaluation process confirming efficacy and longevity as recommended by the WHO.

Sumitomo Chemicals has decades of experience in hybrid chemistry, including both insecticide manufacturing and plastics technology.