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Uganda Launches Malaria Prevention Programme

DATELINE:December 7, 2000

Kampala, Uganda

Uganda Thursday launched a malaria prevention programme which hinges on the provision of insecticide-treated nets to avert over 100,000 deaths caused by the Anopheles mosquito-spread disease in the country annually.

Health ministry officials confirmed that malaria is the leading cause of deaths and illnesses in Uganda today. Almost a quarter of deaths of children under five are caused by malaria. Many of these deaths can be prevented.

"The overall objective of the Uganda national malaria control programme is

to prevent mortality and reduce morbidity and to minimise the social and economic costs and losses due to malaria," Dr. Dennis Lwamafa, head of the programme, said.

Only six districts would initially get the nets under the strategy tagged "Smartnet," which was co-launched in Kampala by the health ministry and the US Agency for International Development.

The co-sponsors have asked the Commercial Marketing Strategies Project or CMS, which popularised "Protector" condoms and other reproductive health products, to create demand for Smartnet.

USAID has provided CMS with 450 million shillings (250,000 US dollars) for

the marketing project.

"Smartnet is a revolutionary malaria prevention net that does not need re-treatment for up to 22 washings and costs far less than what a typical family spends on malaria treatment each year," Deus Mubangizi, the CMS marketing manager, said.

Ugandan households spend on average more than 40,000 shillings on medication to treat malaria every year. Health officials say insecticide treated nets could reverse this trend.

"Investing as little as 9,500 shillings in a treated net such as smartnet would save families money," Mubangizi said.

Less than a quarter of all households in Uganda use nets and only a handful of those nets are treated with insecticide.

"We must seek to increase the number of people sleeping under treated nets and we must ensure that those most vulnerable to malaria are using the nets," US deputy ambassador Donald Teitelbaum said.

Mubangizi added: "Smartnet is pre-treated with a safe and effective insect icide that prevents mosquitoes from biting even through the net. that's why we call it the ultimate malaria shield."

The project sponsors hope that pregnant women and children under the age o f five, who are most at risk of malaria, would be the first to use Smartnet.

Malaria complications in pregnant mothers include abortions, stillbirths, under-weight babies and severe anaemia.

Smartnet will be widely available in shops, clinics and pharmacies in the six districts and later spread countrywide within the year.

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