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Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK

World: Africa

Malaria protection for every African child

The nets should protect children from mosquitoes

Sixty million African families will be provided with insecticide-treated mosquito nets over the next five years as part of an international effort to protect every child in Africa from malaria in the next millennium.

The action could save the lives of nearly half a million children under five, experts meeting in Tanzania have said.

BBC Science Correspondent Helen Briggs reports
The international consortium of charities, researchers and mosquito net manufacturers agreed to provide the treated nets at a cost of about $5 each.

Children who sleep under the nets are 50% less likely to contract malaria, which is spread through mosquito bites, and is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Africa.

Massive costs

The disease also exacts a heavy economic toll on African nations, the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Frederick Sumaye, said.

"The annual direct economic cost of malaria across Africa ... will exceed $3.5bn (in 2000), twice what it was in 1995," he said.

Mr Sumaye said the cost of treating malaria accounted for up to 40% of Africa's public health spending.

It is thought that fewer than two million African households currently use mosquito nets.

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