Malaria Consortium\'s Statement for International Women\'s Day 2008 7 March 2008
London, Friday 7 March 2008. On the eve of International Women's Day 2008, Malaria Consortium is calling for an increase in targeted malaria interventions towards pregnant women.
Pregnant women are the main adult group at risk of malaria in Africa and are four times more likely to suffer malaria than other adults. About 25 million pregnancies that occur in malaria-endemic areas of Africa are at risk of malaria infection each year. Pregnancy reduces a woman's immunity to malaria making her more likely to become affected by the disease. Pregnant women's increased vulnerability to malaria can have devastating consequences for both the women and her unborn child. In sub-Saharan Africa malaria infection is estimated to cause 400,000 cases of severe maternal anaemia which contributes significantly to maternal mortality - causing an estimated 10,000 deaths per year. Effective interventions for the prevention and control of MIP include intermittent preventive treatment (IPT), insecticide treated nets (ITNs), and case management. Yet, it is estimated that less than five percent of pregnant women have access to effective malaria interventions.
Women's vulnerability to malaria is only due to socio-cultural and gender-based factors. In developing countries, women can be excluded from decisions on household purchases and their bargaining power within the household can significantly impact on their treatment-seeking behaviour and their ability to care for their health and that of their children. Low social status, lack of access to formal education, poor nutrition and less access to financial resources are also some of the key factors that increase women's vulnerability to malaria. Gender inequality also has a direct impact on women's vulnerability to HIV with women accounting for a majority of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, and heightens the risk of co-infection with malaria.
The issue of pregnant women and malaria is pertinent to three of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDGs 4 and 5 focus on maternal and child health. MDG 6 aims at halting/reversing the incidence of malaria by 2015. It is therefore imperative that endemic countries and the international community do more to prevent malaria among pregnant women.
Sunil Mehra, Malaria Consortium Executive Director said: "Women have a key role to play in malaria control and they need to be given a greater voice and be involved in maternal health and malaria interventions."