News ID: 272909
Published: 0836 GMT August 15, 2020

Netting, drug distribution initiative reduced malaria cases by 85% in southern Mozambique

Netting, drug distribution initiative reduced malaria cases by 85% in southern Mozambique
This file photo shows Gloria Tutsawambe, a resident of Sabie, a town north of Maputo, Mozambique, nurses her four-year-old son who is infected with malaria. (RENGA SUBBIAH/UPI)

A program designed to increase access to treatment and infection-prevention tools has reduced malaria cases in southern Mozambique by 85 percent, but has not eliminated the disease, according to an analysis published by PLOS Medicine.

The Magude Program, a five-year initiative that provided people in the region with mosquito netting, antimalarial drugs and education on ways to prevent the mosquito-borne infection, prevented an estimated 40,000 cases of the disease, the researchers said, UPI reported.

As a result of the program, the percentage of the population infected with malaria dropped to 1.4 percent in 2018 from 9.1 percent three years earlier, they said.

"This is an extremely valuable project for advancing the fight against malaria," Ariadna Bardolet, director of the international cooperation program at ‘la Caixa’ Foundation, one of the sponsors for the initiative, said in a statement.

Mozambique has among the highest per capita rates of malaria globally, according to the World Health Organization, which aims to eradicate the disease by 2050.

An estimated 230 million people worldwide are infected with the virus each year, and more than 400,000 die from the disease, the WHO estimates.

Working with the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the Manhica Health Research Center, the Mozambican Alliance Towards Elimination of Malaria developed the Magude Project with financial support from ‘la Caixa’ and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The program targeted Magude, a rural region in southern Mozambique with 48,448 people living in 10,695 households, the researchers said.

In the first phase of the program, the initiative established protocols for the detection and treatment of malaria cases and administered two rounds of antimalarial drugs to the entire population over two consecutive years, they said.

Initiative workers also distributed insecticide-treated bed-nets and conducted annual insecticide spraying in all households in the region.

"These findings unequivocally show that we can increase the number of lives saved by optimally applying the tools we have today, while we develop new ones to address the gap between low and zero transmission," Philip Welkhoff, Malaria Program Director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

"We can turn the corner and ultimately achieve malaria eradication."

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