Thursday the 16th of August 2007 marked a dual launching of two related malaria documents in Nairobi. WHO released its new guidance on insecticide-treated bed nets, and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Kenya shared its impact report on malaria control interventions. Both stressed the importance of mass distribution of free Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets to achieve coverage of vulnerable populations. WHO explained that Kenyan evidence on net distribution modalities and improvements in malaria morbidity and mortality reinforced the need eventually to cover the entire population in endemic areas to achieve maximum health and economic benefits.
The Washington Post reported that the WHO guidance may put to rest the argument between proponents of free nets and those who believe that, â€œpeople who spend their own money on them are more likely to value them and use them properly.â€ Both documents indicated that equity in reaching the poorest portion of the population was best achieved by providing free nets, but that highly subsidized nets through clinic voucher programs and social marketing may play some role in improving access to LLINs in the poorer segment of society.
Data from the Kenya document seen in the attached picture show that over the past three years the gap between the higher and lower income quintiles of the population has been narrowing. This is an indication of how malaria control can contribute the goal of reducing health inequalities enshrined in Kenyaâ€™s National Health Sector Strategic Plan for 2005-10.
WHO also commended Kenya for implementing its national malaria strategy through a broad based international partnerships including DfID, UNICEF, USAID, GFATM, WHO and the Wellcome Trust among others. As the Times reported, donor funding helped make it possible for Kenya to give free nets.
The Kenyan MOH reported that the donor partnership has made one-quarter of a million US dollars available for malaria control since 2002. This amount should be viewed in the light of estimated budgetary needs of US $105 million for the current year alone. The fight against malaria in Kenya requires not only continued donor support, but also greater Kenyan government contributions and wise management of donor support to achieve the greatest health and equity impacts.