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USAID funds anti-malaria expedition to seven African countries

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Explorer Kingsley Holgate to distribute bed nets, anti-malarial products

Washington - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced June 16 its support of South African explorer Kingsley Holgate's "African Rainbow Expedition" to prevent malaria. Holgate -- one of Africa's most colorful modern-day explorers -- will travel thousands of miles in the next year distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets, anti-malaria products and information leaflets on preventing malaria infection for mothers, babies and families in rural villages in seven countries throughout Africa.

By means of a large shipping vessel, together with sponsored Land Rovers and inflatable boats, the malaria-prevention products will reach remote riverside and lakeshore village residents of Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. The expedition, according to a USAID press release, will also utilize Land Rovers to be used as mobile malaria-prevention clinics.

In addition, the expedition will distribute mosquito nets in high-risk malaria areas in Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The expedition began in South Africa on June 10, and continues through Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, ending in July 2006.

In recent years, USAID has more than quadrupled funding for malaria activities and programs, from $22 million in fiscal year 1998 to roughly $90 million in fiscal year 2005. Supporting Holgate's travels throughout high-risk malaria areas in Mozambique, the USAID release said, is a creative way for USAID to reach vulnerable populations in remote areas -- tackling a challenge in malaria prevention and education as part of USAID's overall malaria strategy.

"We are very excited for USAID to have this opportunity to join forces with the Holgate team, who share our passion to save as many lives as possible from malaria," said Dr. Kent Hill, USAID's acting assistant administrator of the Bureau for Global Health. "The thousands of families he will meet will not only learn how to prevent and treat malaria, but will also be provided bed nets so children and mothers will not get sick or die from this terrible disease. This is truly the front lines of public health, and USAID is taking quick action."

Worldwide, an estimated 300 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur every year, according to USAID, resulting in up to 2.5 million deaths, mostly among young children. Malaria itself is the Number 1 killer of children in Africa, causing the deaths of at least 1 million infants and children under 5 every year. However, death from malaria is largely preventable if addressed in time and with basic interventions.

Bed nets treated with an appropriate insecticide have been proven effective in killing mosquitoes, according to USAID. The netting also acts as an additional protective barrier. Consistently sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net, the USAID release said, has been shown to decrease severe malaria by 45 percent, reduce premature births by 42 percent and cut total child mortality by 17 percent to 63 percent.

For those at risk in malaria-endemic Africa (south of the Sahel and north of the Zambezi River), insecticide-treated bed nets are a practical and effective means of protecting the population. These nets, according to USAID, provide "significant protection" to those sleeping under them and can reduce deaths in children by one-fifth and episodes of malaria by half.

Holgate and his team have already completed several malaria research expeditions in remote villages in Africa. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Holgate has immersed himself in African cultures and has spent much of his life exploring the African continent in the footsteps of the early explorers.

Holgate's adventures, many of which are world firsts, include Cape to Cairo in 1993, a journey in the footsteps of Livingstone and Stanley, and a circumnavigation of Kenya's Lake Turkana -- the world's largest desert lake.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)