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Swiss help malaria prevention in Tanzania

Malaria kills about 100,000 people, mainly small children, every year in Tanzania.

(Swiss Tropical Institute)

Swiss know-how is set to play a valuable role in Tanzania's national programme to combat malaria.

The Swiss Development Agency is financing a unit within the ministry of health, which will coordinate the programme.

Switzerland has considerable expertise and technical knowledge in malaria control and specifically, the treatment of mosquito nets, said Dr Christian Lengeler from the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel.

"Two years ago we were able to show that mosquito nets treated with insecticide had a very high impact on child mortality, reducing the rate by 27 per cent," he told swissinfo.

"This provoked a political interest and also an interest within the ministry of health to support the expansion of mosquito net activities across the whole country."

High-risk groups

In April, the UN-sponsored global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria awarded Tanzania $12 million over the next five years for mosquito net activities.

The money provides the means to target the poorest sections of society, particularly the high-risk groups of children and pregnant women, the manager of Tanzania's malaria control programme, Alex Mwita, told swissinfo.

Current estimates suggest that malaria kills about 100,000 people, mainly small children, every year in Tanzania. Lengeler believe that proper use of treated nets could prevent half these fatalities.

"The immediate goal is within one year to be able to have a national programme so that mosquito nets treated with insecticide become available in every village in the country," he said.

"We have set ourselves a very ambitious target - which is to protect 60 per cent of all the children and pregnant women in the country by the year 2005."

If all goes according to plan, the target of 60 per cent use in children and pregnant women could lead to 30,000 deaths averted every year.

Common strategy

Two years of discussions have united all the interested parties in Tanzania behind a common strategy.

These include multilateral donor agencies such as the United Nations children's fund and the World Health Organisation; the English, Swiss and Dutch governments; non-governmental organisations and the Tanzanian ministry of health.

In terms of malaria, Tanzania is one of the worst affected countries on the continent. More than 80 per cent of the population of 33 million people is exposed to very high levels of transmission.

Mwita said treated mosquito nets were one of the key components of the war against malaria and that cheaper anti-malarial drugs were also needed.

by Vincent Landon

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