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Dec 2, 2009
One in three children in Liberia has malaria, use of mosquito nets low

Monrovia, Liberia. A house-to-house survey in Liberia found that roughly one-third of children under age five (32%) tested positive for malaria and that just one-quarter of all children slept under a mosquito net the night before the interviews, according to the 2009 Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey (LMIS) released today. It is the first survey focused on malaria testing and prevention and treatment strategies in Liberia.

The survey also found that 47% of households own at least one insecticide-treated net (ITN), indicating that families do not have enough nets for all their children, they are not using what they have, or both. The survey included testing of 4,000 children and interviews with over 4,000 households.  

Malaria is found throughout Liberia, but it is much more common in rural areas, where 38% of children tested positive, compared to 21% in urban areas. The survey also tested children for anemia, which is a common symptom of malaria. Sixty percent of children tested positive for anemia, while 34% had moderate or severe forms of anemia.

Almost half of Liberian households have at least one insecticide-treated net, but ITN ownership ranges from only 32%in South Central Region to 66% in South Eastern B Region. Two-thirds of women know that using mosquito nets can prevent malaria; however, only one-quarter of children under age five and one-third of pregnant women slept under an ITN the night before the survey. Among children, use of ITNs is most common in South Eastern A and B regions, while pregnant women in North Western and North Central are most likely to use an ITN.

Pregnant women should receive at least two doses of the antimalarial SP/Fansidar during an antenatal visit to prevent malaria. Almost two-thirds of pregnant women took at least some antimalarial drugs, but only 45% received the recommended treatment. Preventive treatment of pregnant women is best in North Western Region, where 60% of women received the recommended treatment. Meanwhile, women in South Eastern B are least likely to receive 2+ doses of SP/Fansidar during ANC – just 22%.

More than 2 in every 5 children under the age of five had a fever in the two weeks before the survey. Children with fever should be treated with an antimalarial. Almost 4 in every 10 children under age five with a fever received an antimalarial promptly. One-third of children with fever received no antimalarial at all. Children in South Central, South Eastern A, and South Eastern B were least likely to receive prompt treatment. Children in the wealthiest and best educated households were most likely to receive prompt treatment.

About the survey: The 2009 Liberia Malaria Indicator Survey (LMIS) was implemented by the National Malaria Control Program of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) assisted in the design of the survey, as well as the training and monitoring of data collection staff. Technical assistance was provided by ICF Macro, an ICF International company, through the worldwide MEASURE DHS program. Funding was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the MEASURE DHS program, and the President’s Malaria Initiative. Additional information can be obtained from the National Malaria Control Program, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Capitol By-Pass, P.O. Box 10-9009, Monrovia, Liberia; Telephone: 231-651-6577; email: Jjonesdr@yahoo.com.