Published: Feb 8, 2012
By James Addis
Malaria: New evidence supports bed nets
©2011 Kenneth Kibet/World Vision
Bed nets are distributed at a hospital in Kenya.
New evidence suggests that hundreds of thousands more people die every year from malaria than was previously believed.

This reinforces the urgent need to distribute more bed nets, says World Vision malaria program manager Shelby Benson.

Last week, leading medical journal The Lancet published a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) based at the University of Washington, saying more than 1.2 million people died of malaria in 2010.

This is almost twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease.

IHME said the reason for the disparity is that previous studies had assumed the disease mainly kills children under 5 and had grossly under estimated the deaths of older children and adults from malaria.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization says the new figures should be treated with caution, noting that the data IHME used to classify malaria as the cause of death could be flawed.

Benson says whatever the truth of the matter, the distribution of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets is clearly the right approach.

“Our main effort is the mass distribution of bed nets for the prevention of malaria for all ages. We provide universal coverage to households,” she says. “If anything, it just shows us that we need to continue moving in this direction.”
Last year, World Vision distributed more than 2.2 million nets in Africa alone and plans distribution of millions more over the next three years. The organization hopes to achieve a 75 percent reduction in malaria cases and near-zero preventable malaria deaths in targeted areas by 2015.

Benson says malaria remains the number one killer of children in areas where World Vision operates, irrespective of its impact on adults.

The IHME notes that although its estimate of malaria deaths is higher than in other reports, its analysis confirms a downward trend in malaria deaths in recent years.

The institute says this reflects increased availability of insecticidal nets and the use of the powerful anti-malarial drug artemisinin.

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