Date Published: 14 March 2014
Mosquito nets for the Central African Republic
150,000 mosquito nets will be provided to displaced people currently located in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, due to having lost their homes because of the ongoing conflict in the country. The mosquito nets are being supplied by international children's charity UNICEF in advance of the rainy season expected to begin next month (April).
Unfortunately the rainy season brings with it increased threat of malaria, which can be deadly. Vulnerable populations such as these displaced groups of people that include many young children are at particular risk from malaria, which is already the cause of 40% of illness among displaced children.
" Heavy rains have already started and displacement sites are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes," said UNICEF CAR Representative Souleymane Diabaté.
" Without any protection against mosquitoes, displaced children are at even higher risk of attacks of malaria."
Distribution of the mosquito nets was carried out by UNICEF and the National Red Cross, while the Ministry of Health oversaw campaign activities. By the end of the campaign, a total of 75,000 families will have received two mosquito bed nets each, along with educational material on malaria, the importance of using nets, and information how to hang and maintain them. More than 120,000 mosquito bed nets have already been distributed in major displacement sites in the capital since mid-February.
" These nets will save lives," Diabaté said. "Malaria is one of the biggest causes of child deaths here. Now, violence prevents families from going to the health facility for treatment, heath staff have fled, and facilities have been looted. What are the chances children can receive adequate treatment on time?"
Figures from a group of NGOs and UN organisations working in health in the Central African Republic (CAR) have stated that since the beginning of December 2013, malaria has been the cause of 40% of illness for children under-five in the 40 major displacement camps in Bangui. While such bald statistics may help to obtain and justify funding, they fail to convey the realities of human distress and suffering due to either the situation in CAR generally, or the specific threat of malaria in the displacement camps.
" My son had a difficult start to life," said Ngombe, a displaced mother whose baby had malaria. "We had to stay in the hospital for a whole week in order for him to get better. But now he's fine and the new net will hopefully protect him from now on." Ngombe fled her home when violence erupted in Bangui last December.
Before the present crisis in this area, only 36% of children in CAR slept under a mosquito net. Since then the situation has worsened considerably, in part because displacement forced many people to leave behind their belongings - such as beds and mosquito nets, if they had them. Sleeping under a mosquito net has been estimated to reduce malaria deaths by 20%.