Despite significant progress in recent years, malaria remains the leading killer of children in Mozambique

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MAPUTO, Mozambique, 25 April 2011 – The 2008 National Mortality study confirmed malaria as the leading killer of children in Mozambique. Thirty-three per cent of deaths among children under five are attributed to malaria, and among children aged one to five, deaths attributed to malaria reach 46 per cent. The odds of surviving increase sharply once a child makes it past the first year of life, but malaria is a threat that remains throughout childhood. An estimated 34,000 children die from malaria in Mozambique each year – almost one child every 15 minutes. As well as being the major cause of death among young children, malaria also accounts for 40 per cent of all out-patient consultations and up to 60 per cent of in-patients cases in pediatric wards, placing a significant burden on available health resources.

Major reductions in infection have been observed in areas of the country where scaling-up of malaria prevention and control interventions have occurred, however, such as in Maputo province, where malaria infections have dropped dramatically in recent years. The Government of Mozambique promotes two effective tools for malaria prevention and control: indoor residual spraying (IRS) and long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs). Until this year, LLINs have been distributed to specific target groups, such as pregnant women during ante-natal visits and children under five through health campaigns or national Child Health Weeks.

Other groups, such as people living with HIV, people receiving treatment for HIV, and orphans and vulnerable children, as well as the armed forces, have received LLINs through PEPFAR, a funding mechanism established by the US Government. Since 2009, the Mozambican Government has pursued a policy of universal coverage of LLINs and this year, while routine distribution during antenatal care visits continues as before, will be the first year with a full focus on universal coverage.

Bed net coverage in children under five following campaign activities in 2009 is estimated at around 93 per cent in unsprayed districts and about 54 per cent nationally. By 2008, 65 per cent of households with a child under five owned at least one mosquito net of any type. However, only 31 per cent of households owned a net that was treated with an insecticide. The proportion of children who reported sleeping under any net the night before they were surveyed, rose from 10 per cent in 2003 to 42 per cent in 2008. In 2010, 85 per cent of pregnant women nationwide had received a long-lasting insecticidal net, up from 46 per cent in 2007.

While there are encouraging signs of progress in the fight against malaria, the coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets, which are twice as effective as untreated nets, remains far below national and international targets. In addition, household ownership of mosquito nets is not automatically translated into effective use of nets by pregnant women and children under five, the two population groups that are most at risk of illness and death from malaria, or into correct and consistent use of nets by net owners.

“Increasing net coverage is only half the battle,” says Dr. Emanuele Capobianco, Chief of Health and Nutrition at UNICEF Mozambique. “The other half is to ensure that people know how to use the nets and that they actually use them.”

Rapid diagnosis through community case management, along with increased availability and use of rapid diagnostic tests will help accelerate and consolidate recent gains in the fight against malaria.

“We must also continue to focus on the treatment of malaria. In particular, we need to ensure the availability of rapid diagnostic kits and high-quality drugs that can be accessed by people affected by malaria,” concludes Dr. Capobianco.

For more information about malaria:

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: