5 July 2000
Uganda has completely scrapped taxes and tariffs on mosquito nets and insecticides used in the fight against malaria in its June budget. This follows hard-hitting pledges to waive malaria-related taxes and tariffs made at the historic African Malaria Summit in Nigeria this past April. Now, Uganda is the fastest country to respond - with most African nations yet to act.
Tanzania was the first African country to take action on the ‘malaria tax’ last year reducing the total of taxes and tariff duty combined to 5% - making mosquito nets more affordable at an average price of US $3.50.
Malaria kills more than one million people a year worldwide – nine out of 10 cases in Africa - but can be prevented by using insecticides and bed nets to stop the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.
Prices for nets vary widely across Africa (1) – with prices reported to be as high as US $45 in Swaziland and US $30 in Sudan – putting them completely out of reach of most Africans.
It is estimated that only about three per cent of families in malaria endemic countries use treated nets – with cost thought to be a major obstacle for wider use. Most tax and tariff authorities continue to view insecticide treated nets as textiles, instead of classifying them as pharmaceutical materials with the potential to save lives.
The World Health Organization (WHO), through the global Roll Back Malaria (RBM) movement, is now encouraging other African countries to follow the lead of Uganda and Tanzania.
"Tanzania and now Uganda have set the pace and we need to see other African nations follow this excellent example," said RBM acting project manager, Dr Awash Teklehaimanot. "We know the commitment is there. What we need now is urgent and immediate action."
At the April Summit, hosted by the Nigerian Government, African nations developed a plan of action for accelerating the fight against malaria and made a pledge to reduce or waive taxes and tariffs for mosquito nets, insecticides, anti-malarial drugs and other tools used in malaria control (2).
The pledges marked an increase in Roll Back Malaria commitment and activity across Africa. RBM is a global partnership which includes national governments, WHO, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme, The World Bank, nongovernmental organizations and others committed to halving malaria deaths by 2010.
African Presidents meet again at the Organization for African Unity (OAU) Summit in Lome, Togo from 10 to 12 July. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will remind OAU delegates of the Malaria Summit pledges at the meeting. It is hoped leaders present will be inspired into taking urgent action.
Notes to Editors1. Figures on the levels of tariffs imposed on mosquito nets and insecticides from ‘Barriers to Trade in Mosquito Nets and Insecticides in sub-Saharan Africa’ PATH, Canada, 1998.
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