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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 17:08 GMT
Malaria net taxes 'costing lives'
Mosquito on skin
Stop a mosquito biting - and you won't get malaria
African countries have come under fire for continuing to tax imported anti-malarial mosquito nets.

Activists at high-level conference attacked the policy saying it is severely hampering the fight against the disease.

More than 3,000 people a day in Africa die from the mosquito-transmitted disease.

Many malaria experts say that the best way to reduce deaths is by increasing the use of nets to prevent bites - particularly bed nets impregnated with insecticide.


There is nothing, other than mosquito nets, that can reduce child deaths

Halima Mwenesi, research scientist
These have managed to cut the incidence of malaria in some areas by a third, says the World Health Organisation.

However, 26 African countries continue to tax imported nets, often more than doubling their cost and placing them beyond the pocket of many of their citizens.

This is despite a pledge they made at a malaria conference in 2000 to phase out such taxes by 2010.

Louis de Gama, director of the Malaria Foundation International pressure group, said: "This excellent method of preventing malaria is not being given to the people.

"We are concerned very much that policy and political pressure are just not there."

Red tape

Even a 12 million scheme to provide discounted nets to pregnant women and infants in Tanzania - the country hosting the conference - has had to be delayed because of governmental red tape.

However, it is suggested that governments which do not prioritise malaria are shooting themselves in the foot.

Malaria, in some countries, is blamed for slowing economic development.


We are concerned very much that policy and political pressure are just not there

Louis de Gama, Malaria Foundation International
Two ministries were still discussing which of them should administer the money, claimed Malaria Foundation International.

Malaria remains one of the biggest killers worldwide.

Halima Mwenesi, a scientist working with the Kenya Medical Research Institute told the conference: "There is nothing, other than mosquito nets, that can reduce child deaths from malaria across Africa.

"Mosquitoes are most active between 5pm and 6am, and that's when people are most vulnerable."

See also:

22 Sep 00 | Health
15 Feb 02 | Health
18 Jul 02 | Health
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