Malaria

Growing call for tax-free mosquito nets

Written by Health-e News

A global initiative, formed to mobilise society in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, has launched a campaign to force countries to drop import taxes on treated mosquito nets in an attempt to control the malaria epidemic. The initiative aims to hold governments accountable to commitments made in the Abuja Declaration signed two years ago, in which African states promised to reduce the costs of mosquito nets and insecticides. South Africa is one of several countries which has yet to make good on its promises. Anso Thom reports.

A global initiative, formed to mobilise society in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, today (April 25) launched a campaign to force countries to drop import taxes on treated mosquito nets in an attempt to control the malaria epidemic.

According to MassiveEffort.org, a declaration was made in Abuja, Nigeria, by African leaders two years ago to reduce the cost of protecting mothers and children from mosquitoes.

One million people, mostly pregnant women and children, die each year from malaria.

Massive Effort said that 26 countries, including South Africa, had not removed taxes and tariffs on treated mosquito nets. This has led to Massive Effort launching the “Drop the Malaria Tax” campaign.  

“Africa’s leaders must be held accountable to their promises,” said Louis Da Gama, Director of Malaria Foundation International and spokesperson for the campaign.   “They have it in their power to drop these taxes and to do more to fight malaria in their countries.”

 Treated mosquito nets are considered one of the most effective methods for reducing malaria transmission and preventing death.  

Research in sub-Saharan Africa, where most of the world’s annual 300 million malaria cases occur, shows that using treated mosquito nets can reduce malaria occurrence by at least 50% among children, Massive Effort said in a statement.

Cost and availability are the major barriers to the use of treated mosquito nets.   In the majority of African countries, import duties increase the price of treated mosquito nets by more than 30%, which can amount to a day’s wages in Africa.

Removing the taxes on these nets and the materials required to produce them would reduce the price significantly and make them much more affordable to poor households.

 The Abuja Declaration to Roll Back Malaria in Africa, signed on 25 April 2000 by African leaders, states that:   “We, the Heads of State and Government of African countries .pledge to reduce or waive taxes and tariffs for mosquito nets and materials, insecticides, anti-malarial drugs and other recommended goods and services that are needed for malaria control strategies.

Among the 26 countries that have failed to drop taxes on treated mosquito nets are Botswana, Ethiopia, Gabon, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Togo.

According to Massive Effort, sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP could have been up to 32 percent greater now if malaria had been wiped out over the past decades.  

This would represent up to 100 billion dollars added to sub-Saharan Africa’s current GDP of 300 billion dollars. The extra amount is almost five times all development aid provided to Africa last year.

There are over 300 million cases of malaria worldwide each year, with nearly 1,1 million resulting in death.

Over 90% of these cases and deaths occur in Africa, south of the Sahara. The majority of those who die are children under five years of age.  

They die because they are unprotected from mosquito bites and are not treated quickly enough with anti-malarial drugs to prevent the disease from killing them.

Currently less than 5% of children at greatest risk of the disease sleep safely under these nets.

The cost of a treated mosquito net averages US$ 4.00 (R44) per net.  The “Drop the Malaria Tax” campaign is organised by the Massive Effort. The Massive Effort is a global non-profit network that uses state-of-the art advocacy, communication and marketing strategies to mobilize society to reduce TB and malaria deaths in half, and HIV infections by 25%, by the year 2010.

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Health-e News

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