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Sierra Leone in Malaria Emergency

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UNICEF Sierra Leone has said in Freetown that Malaria emergency is bound to shoot up owing to the fact that the number of treated bed nets needed to considerably trim down malaria related under-five deaths are not as available. Malaria it is said has been on the increase in the past four months in Sierra Leone, killing one child every 30 minutes.

The two partner aid agencies-UNICEF and WHO have launched an urgent appeal for medicines and other supplies to stem the trend of the disease as according to them. “This current trend of one in five children in Sierra Leone dying before the age of five due to easily preventable diseases is unacceptable, and calls for immediate and concerted action” said a joint communiqué by the WHO and UNICEF released on 10th December.  The two agencies are ‘urgently’ appealing for 1.3 million bed nets, as well as anti-malaria drugs, at a cost of US$ 16.9 million.  “The situation is now considered as constituting a potential emergency,” said the statement.  The UN outfits blamed the rising number of deaths mainly to a shortage of anti-malaria medicines and other supplies. “The fundamental thing is to strengthen the procurement and supply system,” Rumisheal Shoo, head of child survival and development at UNICEF Sierra Leone, said. A procurement problem in mid- 2008 caused a shortage of medicines, but the drug supply problem aside, the agencies noted that prevention and rapid response also needed to be strengthened.  Only 26% of children sleep under treated bed nets, and just 30% receive malaria drugs within 24 hours of onset.  “This means “the approach to malaria in Sierra Leone is still more curative than preventive,” the communiqué said.  The 26% of children sleeping with nets represents a five-fold increase from 2005, Mr. Shoo said.

“Still, it is not enough.  It is mostly a question of availability; surely, promoting bed net- use is part and parcel of what we must do, but if we have sufficient nets we will be able to mobilize people to use them.”

Efforts to get the reaction of the ministry of health and sanitation proved futile.

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