Between 60,000 and 80,000 Tanzanians die from malaria each year. In the last installment in his series of reports from Tanzania, Ray Suarez looks at a mult-million-dollar effort to slow the spread of the disease through the distribution of bed nets.
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Next tonight, the third and last of Ray Suarez's global health reports from the East African nation of Tanzania. Tonight, combating malaria.
Tanzania is taking on one of its oldest and most-feared killers: malaria.
Public service announcements can be heard in villages across the country. This one in Mwanza reminded Tanzanians to pick up malaria prevention nets. The response was overwhelming. Long lines appeared in Mwanza well before the net distribution began.
Funded largely by the Global Fund, the program called "Catch up Under 5" campaign gives free bed nets to every household in Tanzania with a child under 5 years old. The campaign is one part of a massive effort now underway in Tanzania to eliminate malaria, a disease that kills 60,000 to 80,000 people here every year.
The United States government gave $6.7 million toward the effort. On hand to observe was retired Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, who heads malaria programs for the Obama administration.
REAR ADM. TIM ZIEMER (Ret.), coordinator, U.S. Global Malaria: This campaign represents about 7.2 million nets, so that covers the majority of kids under 5, if not all, hopefully all. OK, that's a significant step forward. So every child under 5 in Tanzania, in theory, should have a free net. That's huge.
The nets are treated with insecticide and designed to hang over beds, protecting children from parasite-carrying mosquitoes that bite late at night and early in the morning. Anti-malaria campaigns target the very young, because children still have immature immune systems and are therefore most vulnerable to severe malaria.
Dr. Alex Mwita overseas malaria programs for the Tanzanian government.
DR. ALEX MWITA, manager, Malaria Control: Under 5 children are just 20 percent of the population, but then they bear the brunt of the disease, in that 60 percent of them are the victims of malaria.