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Bed Nets - A Formidable Weapon Against Malaria In Africa

April 25 is Africa Malaria Day. This day is marked by African leaders to stress on the devastating effects malaria has on the continent, and especially on its younger// citizens.

Every day 3000 African children die, and a million children are killed every year.

This year in Canada, as a continuation of last year’s efforts by Canadian MP Belinda Stronach and satirist Rick Mercer, the campaign: Spread The Net, is poised to do more of that. Under the motto "Ten bucks. One bed net. One life," the campaign aims to send 500,000 bed nets to Liberia and Rwanda over the next two years. UNICEF has agreed to distribute the bed nets.

Bed nets can reduce the rates of malaria say experts. UNICEF studies suggest that proper use of insecticide-treated bed nets, especially at night when mosquitoes tend to bite, can cut transmission in half, and reduce under-five mortality from all causes by up to 25 per cent.

According to the World Health Organization, malaria is constantly occurring in over 100 countries, including most of sub-Saharan Africa and New Guinea; large areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Haiti, Central and South America; and parts of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, North Africa and the Middle East.

They suggest the most effective strategy for preventing malaria infection is to avoid being bitten by infected mosquitoes. This would include staying indoors from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are biting most, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, sleeping under a mosquito net impregnated with an insecticide such as permethrin and the use of DEET-based insect repellents.

A study carried out by Feiko Ter Kuile, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine showed that pregnant women in Africa could reduce their risks of miscarriage or stillbirth by a third just by sleeping under insecticide treated bed nets. The number of babies born with a low weight also fell by about a quarter, while using bed n ets.

Says Kuile: "We know that malaria itself is detrimental to many women who are pregnant and results in severe maternal anemia and reduced birth weight in children. "But we simply didn't have the definitive answers because a lot of the clinical trials themselves were not large enough to be able to answer this question."

This latest study drew on the results of four earlier trials in Kenya and Ghana involving more than 6,000 women. This UK study is expected to boost global programs to reduce malaria by increasing the use of nets - making them more available and more affordable.

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