Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi urged all Mozambicans, and the country’s cooperation partners, to participate in an active and organized manner in the fight against malaria.

He was speaking in Lichinga, capital of the northern province of Niassa, at the launch of a national campaign to distribute mosquito nets, in an effort to assure that all Mozambican households can acquire the nets free of charge.

The national campaign, using the motto “Sleep every night under a mosquito net – protect yourself from malaria”, will take place in four phases. Lichinga district and Nampula province will be the first areas to be covered, followed by the rest of the county.

Nyusi described malaria as one of the major public health challenges facing Mozambique. He said that in 2015 the health service recorded 6,418,518 cases of malaria. This was a ten per cent increase on the number of known cases of the disease in 2014. The highest prevalence of malaria is in the two most populous provinces, Nampula and Zambezia.

The fight against malaria is a political commitment, said Nyusi, and is part of the government’s programme in the health care area, alongside the building of more health units, and investment in the training of competent and motivated health professionals.

The keys to fighting malaria, he added, were the use of mosquito nets treated with long lasting insecticide, early diagnosis of the disease and appropriate treatment. “We must empower the health units with the resources necessary to increase their capacity to care for patients”, he said.

The data on the use of mosquito nets showed significant advances, said the President. The proportion of households with at least one mosquito net rose from 51 per cent in 2011 to 66 per cent in 2015. Over the same period the percentage of children under the age of five who slept under mosquito nets increased from 36 to 48 per cent. The number of pregnant women protected by the nets rose from 57 to 69 per cent.

But Nyusi regarded these indicators as far too low. He also urged communities to abandon the abuse of mosquito nets for fishing. The Health Ministry is now issuing warnings against this practice. If mosquito nets are used for fishing, not only do they become useless for their primary purpose, but they also devastate marine ecosystems since they catch juvenile fish and crustaceans.

Nyusi also stressed that the mosquito nets are free “and must not be sold”. He said the government and its partners intend to increase the mosquito net coverage through regular distribution across the country.