7 May 2004

Africa: Benin Gets Mosquito Nets to Protect Pregnant Women And Children From Malaria

press release

New York — Benin is moving to protect pregnant women and small children from malaria with insecticide-treated bed nets with funds from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis distributed by UNDP.

The initiative will help Benin's progress towards achieving Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals, which calls for reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.

UNDP is providing the Ministry of Health with 240,000 bed nets and 3,000 litres of insecticide to treat them, a $632,000 initiative supported by the Global Fund. The announcement came at a ceremony last week marking Africa Malaria Day in Cotonou, the capital, on 26 April.

Malaria is a major killer, claiming at least one million lives each year worldwide. About 90 per cent of the deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, most of them children under the age of five. Hundreds of millions of people are infected with malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, mainly in poor rural areas in developing countries.

Benin's Minister of Public Health Yvette Céline Seignon Kandissounou said that the bed nets will strengthen the Ministry's efforts to combat malaria. "This support will help get many children under five and pregnant women sleeping under treated bed nets by the end of next year," she said. The target is to have 60 per cent of these vulnerable groups protected by then.

The Minister thanked the Global Fund for its support in helping the Government tackle this health challenge, noting that only 4 per cent of children under five and pregnant women were protected by bed nets three years ago. She observed that 44 African heads of state and government pledged in 2000 to reduce malaria's toll.

The new support, she said, will also help to re-treat the bed nets, which lose their effectiveness as the insecticide wears off. While 84 re-treatment centres were set up around the country in the past eight years, many are not able to treat nets due to a lack insecticide.

Ms. Kandissounou announced plans to provide treated bed nets, at a subsidized price, as a part of pre-natal consultations. She said the Ministry aimed to include bed nets and insecticides used for treatment on its purchasing list of essential medications, a step that will help promote wider distribution and improve service at health clinics. She also said that it is vital to reduce or eliminate import duties on bed nets.

The prevalence of malaria in Benin is high with 114 cases per 1,000 inhabitants, according to last year's national Millennium Development Goals report, noted Moustapha Soumaré, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.

The onset of the rainy season, which provides ideal breeding conditions for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, adds to the risks and makes the bed net initiative all the more timely, he said. He noted that the Government had designated UNDP as the recipient of the resources from the Global Fund and said that his office would make every effort to merit that trust.

For further information please contact Gisèle Adissoda , UNDP Benin, or Nicholas Gouede , UNDP Communications Office.

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