Background data on child mortality and morbidity from malaria were obtained in a new study area in the centre of The Gambia, south of the river, chosen as the site for a malaria intervention trial. Infant and child mortality rates were 120 and 41 per 1000 respectively. Results obtained using post-mortem questionnaires suggested that malaria was an uncommon cause of death in children under the age of one year but responsible for about 40% of deaths in children aged 1-4 years. Ninety-two percent of deaths attributed to malaria occurred during or immediately after the rainy season. Parasite and spleen rates in children aged 1-5 years at the end of the malaria transmission season were 66% and 64% respectively. Malariometric indices were similar in primary health care (PHC) villages, selected as sites for an intervention with insecticide-treated bed nets and targeted chemoprophylaxis, and in smaller, non-PHC, control villages.