Let's talk about nets baby

An estimated 250 million nets at $10 a piece are needed to achieve the current UN goal of 80% coverage in high risk groups – pregnant women and children under five. UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon has raised the bar calling for universal coverage with nets by 2010 as part of his plan to end malaria deaths in Africa by the same target date.

Designing grand plans and setting specific target dates are contentious actions. On one hand it’s a desire to create measurable benchmarks, mobilize the malaria community, and capitalize on the current political interest. On the other side such efforts represent an unachievable, unsustainable push which will provide temporary benefit but no long term control progress as donors and countries fatigue and funding disappears.

Insecticide treated nets (ITNs) are an effective intervention for controlling malaria and its laudable to advocate their widespread use. ITNs though are not a magic bullet and in the absence of local capacity, surveillance systems, long-term funding, and adequate health infrastructure, their distribution will be for naught. Thus, it seems the challenge is to not develop tunnel vision as we speed ahead at 200 miles an hour.

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