The global community reaches a new malaria milestone
The 2 billionth mosquito net will be delivered this year. Since 2004, millions of people around the world — from pregnant mothers in Guinea to laborers in Thailand to school children Zambia — have benefited from this affordable and effective life-saving tool.
The mosquito that carries malaria primarily bites later at night, and almost half of the world is at risk for this sometimes deadly disease. Insecticide-treated nets protect sleeping families by creating a physical barrier from mosquitoes and also killing the mosquitoes that land on the net.
About 450 million cases of malaria were prevented between 2005 and 2015 because of nets. And increased delivery of nets means more people are protected. In 2018, the number of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa who sleep under a mosquito was 50 percent, up from 29 percent in 2010.
The 2 billionth net is an achievement shared by many governments, donors, and other partners around the globe. USAID’s contribution — in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) — includes purchasing almost 300 million nets and distributing about 400 million nets since 2006. In fiscal year 2019 alone, PMI protected almost 100 million people with nets. PMI works in alignment with country governments’ net distribution strategies to protect their most vulnerable populations.
Getting life-saving tools into the hands of communities
Globally, most of the 2 billion nets have gotten to families through mass distribution campaigns. PMI supports these campaigns, which can rapidly achieve high and equitable net coverage.
Last year PMI supported the governments of Senegal and The Gambia as they achieved another net milestone: the first-ever coordinated cross-border distribution campaign. Mosquitoes do not respect boundaries, so collaboration to ensure that communities on both sides of a border are covered is a vital step toward eliminating malaria.
In between mass campaigns, PMI gets nets into communities through health clinics — such as pregnancy care and immunization programs. This accounts for the growing population and any nets that might have deteriorated between campaigns while ensuring coverage of the people most vulnerable to malaria infection: pregnant women and children under the age of five.
Across Africa, schools have also become a promising channel for distributing nets. Using schools has the extra benefit of turning children into powerful change agents when they share what they have learned about preventing malaria with their families and neighbors.
Continuing the fight against malaria
PMI support for insecticide-treated nets does not stop at delivery. From radio dramas to road shows, PMI activities remind people of the importance of using their nets all night, every night. PMI also informs global policy and best practices for net distribution and education by monitoring how nets hold up in households.
With malaria-carrying mosquitoes becoming resistant to the insecticides traditionally used against them, PMI funds a network of sites across partner countries to monitor insecticide resistance. PMI is also collaborating with other partners on the New Nets Project, which is piloting nets treated with new insecticide combinations in sub-Saharan Africa.
Two billion nets delivered since 2004 means safer nights for families and more productive, healthy days. It means fewer pregnant women and babies dying. It means more children attending school. It means that we are that much closer to a malaria-free world. But it does not mean that our work is done.
About the Author
Bridget Higginbotham is a Malaria Technical Advisor for the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative.