Malaria is a serious disease that claims the lives of about 655,000 people every year. Malaria is usually transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, which are common in tropical areas. About 90% of all malaria victims live in sub-Saharan Africa, although the disease also affects millions of people in South America and Southeast Asia. Most malaria victims are children under five years old.
Anti-malarial drugs are effective at preventing malaria, which causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and chills. However, many people at the greatest risk for contracting malaria do not have access to anti-malarial medications. Sub-Saharan Africa is a developing region where health-care infrastructures are still being established. Many rural Africans cannot access anti-malarial drugs due to lack of money, lack of available medications, or lack of a distribution network.
One of the most effective methods of reducing malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is the use of insecticide-treated nets, or ITNs. ITNs, developed in the 1980s, can reduce malaria cases by 20%, saving the lives of thousands of children every year.
Mosquito nets have long been an effective way to protect people from the mosquitoes and other biting insects. Light and air can easily penetrate mosquito nets, but mosquitoes cannot. The sharp proboscis of the mosquito can penetrate the net, however. (The proboscis is the long, narrow mouthpart the mosquito uses to pierce the skin and suck the blood of its victim.) Because people can still be bitten through most nets, mosquito nets are hung from frames and not draped directly onto people’s skin.
Mosquito nets, sometimes called bednets, can be hung over beds, desks, or even cooking areas. Some tents are made of mosquito-net fabric, to help campers avoid the pesky insects.
ITNs are an even more powerful protection against mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they carry. ITNs are bednets treated with a type of insecticide that is deadly to mosquitoes and other insects, but usually harmless to people and pets.
The insecticide in ITNs breaks down when the material is washed or constantly exposed to sunlight. Some ITNs need to be replaced every six months, while newer versions last up to three years. ITNs that last three years are called LLINs, or long-lasting insecticide-treated nets.
ITNs and LLINs are relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends “universal coverage” in malaria-prone areas, including sub-Saharan Africa. (“Universal coverage” means one ITN or LLIN should be available for every two people—and all pregnant women—in all malaria-infested areas of the world.) In fact, reducing cases of malaria by 75% by 2015 is one of the WHO’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Use of LLINs is the first method listed to reach this goal.
all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.
harmful condition of a body part or organ.
the way something is spread out over an area.
weariness or exhaustion.
air containing a large amount of water vapor.
to contaminate with a disease or disease-causing organism.
structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.
type of animal that breathes air and has a body divided into three segments, with six legs and usually wings.
chemical substance used to kill insects.
(insecticide-treated net) thin net, treated with insecticide, hung over a bed or other area to repel and kill mosquitoes.
(long-lasting insecticide-treated net) thin net, treated with insecticide lasting up to three years, hung over a bed or other area to kill mosquitoes.
infectious disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes.
drug or other remedy used to treat an illness.
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
set of eight goals agreed to by all members of the United Nations, concerning improving the quality of life in the developing world.
insect capable of piercing the skin and sucking the blood of animals.
to push through.
long, narrow mouthpart used by many insects for piercing and sucking.
vulnerable or tending to act in a certain way.
to pass along information or communicate.
existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.
World Health Organization (WHO)
United Nations agency responsible for health.