LUSAKA, December 18, 2010—An ambitious program by the government of Zambia to fight malaria has seen dramatic progress against the infectious mosquito-borne disease over the past few years. When the Malaria Booster Program was launched in April 2006, the disease was endemic in all of Zambia’s nine provinces and contributed to an estimated 40 percent of under-five deaths and 20 percent of maternal deaths.
The disease, estimated to decrease gross domestic product in African countries by as much as 1.3 percent per annum, was exacting a high human and economic toll. Malaria was responsible for 50,000 deaths per year. In 2004, malaria alone was responsible for 45 percent of all hospitalizations in Zambia.
The Malaria Booster Program—supported by the World Bank and other development partners—was designed to strengthen Zambia’s efforts to overcome malaria and saw a significant increase in effective preventive measures including indoor spraying and distribution of insecticide treated nets. There were mass information and education campaigns and increased testing with a particular focus on mothers and children whose vulnerability puts them at higher risk.
Fewer deaths among children
The results have been impressive. Child mortality fell by 29 percent in the six years up to 2008—saving an estimated 75,000 children’s lives. Between 2000 and 2008, the annual number of malaria deaths was cut in half, despite growth in the population by almost a third.
Today more than half of children under five years of age sleep under treated bed nets, up from 30 percent four years ago.
While on a visit to the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in December, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick signed an agreement to provide US$30 million in additional financing to support the country’s efforts to overcome malaria and scale up the successes achieved in the first phase of the program.
“Resources from the Malaria Booster Program have contributed to a sharp decline in annual mortality due to malaria as well as to the strengthening of Zambia’s health system,” Zoellick said. “But despite major advances in malaria prevention, the disease remains endemic and is still a leading cause of death, especially among children. We must persist with strong prevention efforts and ensure that health systems are equipped to treat the disease quickly.”
Zoellick explained that the World Bank funds will support the government's efforts to address the causes of a recent worrying resurgence in malaria in three provinces and strengthen Zambia’s health system by improving the delivery of maternal and child health services in rural areas.
MALARIA IN ZAMBIA: KEY FACTS AND RESULTS
- The additional financing for the Malaria Booster Program comprises a zero-interest credit of US$ 30 million and a grant of US$16.76 million from the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund (HRITF). The HRITF is a US$543 million multi-donor trust fund supported by the governments of Norway and the United Kingdom through 2022.
- Other partners in the program, working closely with the Government of Zambia, include USAID, the Global Fund, the President's Malaria Initiative, the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa, and the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers.
- The annual number of malaria deaths fell by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2008.
- In the first phase of the Malaria Booster Program, share of households having either an Insecticide Treated Net or conducting Internal Residual Spraying increased from 43 percent to 73 percent.
- The share of pregnant women who took more than two doses of presumptive treatment for malaria increased from 45 percent to 70 percent.
- The share of children with severe anemia declined by 33 percent.