"The disease can hamper the economic development of the country so we have launched an initiative for children and pregnant women to be given impregnated mosquito nets," said Emilienne Raoul, minister of health, social affairs and family.
This project aims to reduce morbidity and mortality linked to the disease among children younger than five and pregnant women, she added.
For Raoul, among other difficulties encountered in the fight against malaria is the resistance to the usual anti-malaria treatments as well as the high cost of new therapeutic combinations based on Artemisinin-derived products.
National anti-malaria policy
In Congo, the fight against malaria is year-round thanks to climatic conditions that favour the development of the anopheles mosquitoes, which carries the disease, and human resistance to the usual anti-malaria treatments, particularly chloroquine.
The general objective of this latest five-year anti-malaria initiative (to 2011) is to reduce maternal and infant-juvenile mortality by 50 percent and morbidity linked to the disease in the population in general, and particularly among children under five and pregnant women.
For the Congolese government, intensifying the fight against malaria is also part of its poverty reduction strategy in order to boost economic growth.
Mosquito nets the best prevention
Malaria prevention, by using bed nets impregnated with insecticide, constitutes the most efficient and cheapest alternative for a population living below the poverty line.
More than 70 percent of Congolese already use non-impregnated mosquito nets. In some districts of the Sangha, Likouala and the Cuvette department, in the north, about 80 percent of inhabitants use mosquito nets.
Impregnated mosquito nets significantly reduce infection in children younger than five. The widespread utilisation of impregnated mosquito nets is a major component of the national programme against malaria in Congo, helped by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
According to UNICEF, three-quarters of Congolese households have at least one mosquito net, impregnated or not (76 percent). In Pointe-Noire, the second-largest city and economic capital of the country, 85 percent of households use mosquito nets, while in Brazzaville, rates are 81 percent.
However, in rural areas, mosquito nets are used in fewer than 60 percent of households.
But only 9 percent of households have at least one impregnated mosquito net. In Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, among the wealthiest households this proportion is slightly higher than national average (respectively 13 and 15 percent).
In other areas, the average number of impregnated mosquito nets per household is extremely low (0.2 percent). The objective is to make impregnated mosquito nets universal throughout the country.
Preventive care is automatically given to pregnant women in the public healthcare system. In 2006, more than 12,600 pregnant women were given preventive treatment. Among the rest of the population, prevention is not widespread and depends on the level of information in a household on how to fight malaria.
According to WHO data, malaria kills a child younger than five every 30 seconds in Africa. Fatoumata Nafo Traoré, WHO representative in Congo, said more than a million malaria cases result in death each year.
"The disease generates economic losses for Africa each year estimated at US$12 billion," she added.