Marking World Malaria Day Apr 25: Malaria nets help sustain the gains

Malaria net voucher schemes are proving to be an efficient and cost-effective means of ensuring high usage levels of the life-saving nets in Tanzania. They are also critical to overall malaria control strategies promoted by WHO (World Health Organization) as they mark World Malaria Day Apr 25 and to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of “near-zero” deaths by 2015.

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Waterloo, Ont (PRWEB) April 24, 2012

Malaria net voucher schemes are proving to be an efficient and cost-effective means of ensuring high usage levels of the life-saving nets in Tanzania. They are also critical to overall malaria control strategies promoted by WHO (World Health Organization) as they mark World Malaria Day Apr 25 and to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of “near-zero” deaths by 2015.

On the heels of recent ‘catch-up’ campaigns in Tanzania, governments and funding agencies are concerned that nets continue to be accessible to keep coverage rates high as new babies are born and old nets wear out. They are seeking continuous cost-effective distribution of nets and the Tanzanian National Voucher Scheme (TNVS), locally known as Hati Punguzo, has proven an effective mechanism in the past and now looks to an even better ‘keep-up ‘future.

“Voucher programs provide cost effective net distribution, while stimulating consumer sales and improved use and ownership,” says Faith Patrick, MEDA Tanzania country manager.” At $8.33 per net, MEDA can ensure that pregnant women and infants – those at highest risk – have access to this simple, yet critical, tool. Almost 9,000 lives will be saved in 2012 alone.”

Additionally, the new electronic voucher system that TNVS is scaling up leads to added efficiencies and effectiveness. “Our performance goal for eVouchers redeemed in February was 6,300. We were able to exceed that target by 50%. With paper redemptions at 72,000 in the same month, eVouchers already make up 11% of all net vouchers redeemed.”

In recent years under the direction of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), with the assistance of donors such as Global Fund and USAID, MoHSW has delivered 33 million nets in Tanzania as a preventive measure against malaria in both its voucher program and mass coverage “catch up” campaigns, aimed at achieving 80% coverage. This has resulted in a significant increase in net use and more than 180,400 lives saved. Malaria cases saw their greatest decrease between 2007 and 2008, from 235 per 1,000 cases to 184, leading to a 6.6% decline in all out-patient cases.

With the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and its support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), TNVS has been and remains an important part of the fight against malaria. Recently, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has joined this fight, contributing £14,078,475 (about $21.7 million) over the next three years aimed at protecting pregnant women by issuing vouchers during their regular visits to area health clinics.

Ann Gordon, senior manager for the project, based at MEDA’s head office in Waterloo, emphasizes, “We believe that the TNVS bed net program’s focus on pregnant women and infants offers an economical and efficient ‘keep up’ strategy. It increases ownership and allows the commercial sector to thrive, while saving thousands of lives each year and reaching a target group that other campaigns, such as those in schools, do not.”

TNVS is a key strategy for long-term sustainability, particularly in view of diminishing donor funding. It keeps a viable retail network in place, as well as a culture of net use and net purchase. Through TNVS, pregnant women and mothers with newborns are able to sleep more easily and watch their children grow into healthy early childhood.

The challenge:
Malaria is a leading cause of illness and death in Tanzania, with pregnant women and infants being at highest risk. The estimated 2010 maternal mortality rate of 454 per 100,000 live births is an improvement from 578 in 2005 and 529 in 1999.* The initiatives have gone a long way to meeting Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing mortality rates. Infant mortality rates have decreased from 57.7% in 2007-08 to 51% in 2009-10. Under-five mortality rates, though still high, also have seen a commendable decrease – from 91.4% to 81% in the same period. **

Net use by pregnant women and mothers with babies was estimated at 80% in 2009-10 as a result of the mass campaigns, but that number is expected to drop to 55% by 2014 as nets wear out.

TNVS as a “keep up” strategy, with MEDA’s oversight, will ensure that those at highest risk of malaria have access to nets by:

  • Providing health clinics with adequate stocks of net vouchers for pregnant women;
  • Expanding the network of retail outlets to increase access to nets; and,
  • Ensuring that retailers have sufficient nets, and a variety of nets, to meet consumer demand.

In addition to these measures to curb the disease, MEDA has piloted mobile phone technology that delivers vouchers electronically to health clinics and redeems them from retailers via text messaging. A pregnant woman only needs the voucher number to redeem her voucher for a net at a retailer near her. Electronic distribution not only saves on printing vouchers and physically sending them over long distances to remote locations, but also reduces the risk of fraud.
Costs of malaria in Tanzania

  • 16 million episodes of malaria are reported annually.
  • Malaria contributes to 42% of all outpatient department visits for children under the age of 5.
  • There are an estimated 60,000 malaria deaths each year.
  • 80% of the deaths are children under age 5.
  • The remaining 20% includes pregnant women, who are much more susceptible and vulnerable to malaria.
  • Tanzanian Reproductive and Child Health Survey (TRCHS) and 2010 Demographic and Health Survey
** Malaria Indicator Survey, THIS and 2010 DHS surveys

For more information contact Linda Whitmore or Ann Gordon, 519-725-1633, or email lwhitmore@meda.org or agordon@meda.org

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Contact

  • Linda Whitmore
    lwhitmore@meda.org
    519-725-1633
    Email