Globally malaria kills over 1 million people every year and 85% of these deaths are children under 5. It remains the third biggest killer after diarrhoea and pneumonia,* but Tanzania is proving that malaria isn’t a death sentence.
During the 1990s there was little progress on Tanzania’s infant mortality rate. The government hadn’t prioritised healthcare and infant mortality rates were hovering around 140 deaths per 1000.# (By contrast Australia's infant mortality rate is just 4.75 deaths per 1000.)
Pregnant mothers, and children under 5, were particularly vulnerable to malaria. Preventing the spread of this disease is possible - by limiting the transmission through mosquitoes by spraying and using repellent-soaked bed nets.
So in 2003, World Vision began working with local Tanzanian communities on a solution - the Integrated Malaria Control Project (IMCP).
The project introduced spraying and bed nets along with education about avoiding mosquitoes.
To address the infant mortality rate, preventative medication was given to pregnant women and priority was given to treatment for mothers and children showing symptoms of malaria.
IMCP was a three-year project, and at its completion, the infant mortality rate in the communities it had been operating in had fallen to 80 deaths per 1000. This was a 10% improvement for each year the program was running.
Projects such as these demonstrate the efficacy of World Vision's work with local communities. These results are a hopeful sign for our work in addressing maternal and child health concerns, but efforts such as these need to be embraced by others, including government agencies.
Right now, you can take action to support such work. Join Child Health Now, an advocacy campaign bringing attention to the need for governments across the world to prioritise the healthcare needs of mothers and children.
Originally published 20 November 2009.
* UNICEF (2008) State of the World's Children, p.8
# Child Health Now (World Vision) p.15 & 56, also UNICEF 'Plus 5' Review of the 2002 Special Session on Children & world Fit For Action for Children