Sierra Leone is one of seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa where more than a quarter of the population is infected with malaria at any one time, according to World Malaria Report (World Health Organization 2016), with nearly three in ten Sierra Leoneans suffering from the disease. Malaria contributes to an estimated twenty per cent of child mortality, and is the cause of nearly four in ten hospital consultations country-wide. Pregnant women are at particular risk from malaria, which contributes to high rates of miscarriage, pre-mature births and low birth weights.
Four in ten children aged 6-59 months tested positive for malaria (via microscopy), according to survey data in the just published Sierra Leone Malaria Indicator Survey (2016). As stated in the Sierra Leone National Strategic Plan 2016-2020, all children under 5 and all pregnant women should sleep under a treated mosquito net every night to prevent malaria complications.
“Our aim is for Sierra Leone to achieve universal coverage when it comes to mosquito net use by July 2017, with a target of at least 80 per cent of families sleeping inside the treated mosquito nets,” said Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Minister of Health and Sanitation. “Sierra Leone has made significant progress in malaria control, with an almost 30 per cent reduction in all new cases between 2010 and 2015, the highest reduction in West Africa.”
Guy Warrington, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, said ‘‘We fully support the Government of Sierra Leone in their efforts to ensure more people are protected against malaria. UK aid in Sierra Leone has provided £5.7 million to procure half of the bed nets that will be distributed across the country during this campaign. This will save the lives of women and children in Sierra Leone and is part of our £240 million support to the President’s Recovery Priorities. The UK is also committed to tackling malaria on a global scale, our funding makes up 10% of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria’s.”
The nationwide bed net campaign is being funded by UK aid from the British people (also known as DFID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, through UNICEF. In designing a robust campaign, the National Malaria Control Programme received strong technical support from the Alliance for Malaria Prevention, the World Health Organisation, the Leadership Management and Government Project, and UNICEF. Nationwide distribution and use of treated bed nets by every family will contribute significantly to the President’s Recovery goals of saving the lives of 600 women and 5,000 children.
Like the treated mosquito net mass distribution campaign in 2014, this distribution will be an integrated MCH (Mama en Pikin Welbodi) week campaign and will include vitamin A supplementation for children 6-59 months and deworming tablets (Albendazole) for children 12-59 months.