Uganda mounts a major fight against malaria in northern districts

OYAM DISTRICT, Uganda, 19 November 2008 - The Government of Uganda has launched a large-scale malaria campaign here in the country's northern Lango sub-region. It is the latest effort to combat malaria, a preventable disease that is the top killer of children under the age of five in Uganda.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign last week, UNICEF Representative in Uganda Keith McKenzie said: "By this time tomorrow, malaria will have killed nearly 230 children and women in Uganda. That means around nine people will die from malaria in the next hour. Each and every one of these deaths represents a needless loss - an unacceptable loss, when we know they can be prevented."

Implemented in the districts of Apac, Amolatar, Dokolo, Lira and Oyam, the campaign aims to reduce malaria-related mortality and morbidity among children under five and pregnant women by increasing the proportion of households with at least two long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets.

A $3 million contribution from the Government of Japan is being used by UNICEF and its partners to support distribution of some 232,000 nets by the Ministry of Health.

Lack of infrastructure and services

The campaign is also promoting the consistent and proper use of bed nets and providing home-based malaria treatment as part of antenatal care services. It seeks to increase the percentage of children whose malaria-induced fevers are managed at the community level, and to double the number of pregnant women receiving presumptive treatment for malaria.

The Lango sub-region has a total population of 1.7 million (or some 290,000 households). A majority of the population displaced by conflict in northern Uganda has now returned home from camp settlements amid hopes for a peaceful resolution.

Still, the stark lack of infrastructure and basic services in these rural areas has necessitated cost-effective interventions in malaria prevention and control.