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Kenya launches mass campaign to fight malaria and measles

06 July 2006

1.7 million insecticide-treated bed nets to be distributed over one week
5 million children targeted with measles vaccination and other health interventions

Nairobi - In an effort to reduce the burden of malaria, the largest killer of children in the country, the government of Kenya today launched the first phase of a two-part campaign to massively increase the number of young children sleeping under long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets. The campaign plans to distribute 1.7 million bed nets over the next week, with distribution of a further 1.7 million planned for the second phase in August. In total, the use of these nets will prevent the death of an estimated 70,000 children over the next three years. The nets, which are financed as part of an $82 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, will be provided jointly with a range of other essential health interventions, including measles vaccinations, polio vaccinations (in select districts), vitamin A, and de-worming medicine.

Malaria accounts for roughly one-quarter of all deaths among children under the age of five in Kenya each year. The disease takes a considerable toll on the country’s economy, causing the loss of an estimated 170 million productive working days each year. Currently, only 25 percent of young children sleep under a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net, a proven cost-effective method of preventing malaria infection. The campaign aims to increase that level to more than 70 percent.

Kenya is the second in a series of such joint measles-malaria campaigns to be launched this year. In total, more than 18 million bed nets will be distributed in nine countries, including Angola, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, through campaigns in 2006, saving the lives of an estimated 380,000 children over the next three years. The model of combining distribution of bed nets with measles vaccinations and other health interventions was initially tested during campaigns in Togo and Niger in 2004-2005. Both campaigns were highly successful, increasing the percent of households owning a bed net from 8 to 70 percent in Niger and from 8 to 63 percent in Togo.

"This joint campaign is an important addition to our armory in the fight against malaria" said Professor Richard Feachem, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. "We have bed nets and other tools that can stop drive back malaria and, through the Global Fund, we have the funding to purchase them. This campaign is an example of the innovative solutions that are now being used to get those life-saving tools to the people who need them most."

The Kenya campaign is being supported a range of international partners, including the Global Fund, which financed the purchase of the nets, Vestergaard-Frandsen, the producer of the nets, and the Measles Initiative, a partnership led by the Am erican Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Kenya Red Cross and the Church of Latter Day Saints will be working with the government and other partners on social mobilization in order to educate and mobilize communities.

Distribution of bed nets represents only one element of Kenya's efforts to control malaria. Due to the malaria parasite's increasing resistance to chloroquine and other drugs, the country has begun a massive shift to using artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) - more effective and more costly medications - to treat the disease. This shift is also supported through the Global Fund grant, which is financing the purchase and distribution of the new drugs and training health workers on their proper use. Other essential malaria control activities supported by the Global Fund and other partners include spraying of homes with insecticides and providing preventative medications to pregnant women.

The Meales Initiative

The Measles Initiative, launched in 2001, is a long-term commitment and partnership among leaders in public health and supports the goal of reducing measles deaths globally by 90 percent by 2010 compared to 2000. Measles Initiative partners include the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, CDC, WHO, and UNICEF.

Largely due to the technical and financial support of the Measles Initiative and the commitment from African governments, more than 200 million children have been vaccinated against measles and an estimated 1.2 million lives have been saved since 2001. Building on this achievement, in 2005, the Initiative expanded its technical and financial support to countries in Asia, where total measles deaths are highest outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

Supporters of the Measles Initiative also include: the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance), The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Vodafone Group Foundation, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Japanese International Agency for Cooperation (JICA), Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Izumi Foundation, Becton, Dickinson and Company and countries and governments affected by measles.

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