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A mammoth operation to distribute free mosquito nets in Oriental Province

A mammoth operation to distribute free mosquito nets in Oriental Province

By Bibiane Ambongo

Malaria in endemic in Oriental Province. When a mother arrives with a child who is less than five years old, running a very temperature, vomiting or even convulsing, the personnel in the health centres need very little time to determine the diagnosis.  In 8 cases out of ten, the symptoms will lead to malaria.

Lucie is the mother of four year old little Cecilia. She’s looking tired, and living the nightmare once more.  Her daughter is once again under treatment for malaria.  Florence the nurse at the Umoja health centre located 6 kilometres away from the Kisangani city has just prescribed for the second time in a month, anti malarial drugs for her condition.

The experts of the national Programme to combat malaria estimate that Congolese children under the age of five, suffer at least 6 bouts of malaria each year.
This figure is alarming when projected on a national scale.  Over hundred eighty thousand children die of malaria each year; others become orphaned when their parents succumb to the illness.

Prevention is better than cure.
Where it is available, malaria treatment is too costly for many.  Madame Angele works at the health centre.  She uses every opportunity to advise parents who come for postnatal consultations.”Keep your surroundings clean, cut the brushes, and make holes in any used tins and containers to avoid creating conditions for mosquitoes to breed, cover the latrines and most importantly, sleep under insecticide treated bed nets.” 

A mammoth distribution of free bed nets
For many months now, UNICEF and its partners, WHO, UNITAID, USAID  European Union and the World Bank have been working together to mobilize and distribute 1.8 million
5.5 million bed nets to 1,8 million households in the two provinces – Oriental and Maniema.

Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in the DRC.  I am convinced that the mass distribution   in the 2 provinces, will contribute to the reduction of child and maternal mortality.  Today the DRC has one of the highest rates in the world».

Huge logistical challenges
Each household, an average of 6 people, on presentation of a ticket previously distributed by a community worker, receives 3 Mosquito bed nets.  For the distribution operation to succeed, all transportation means have been deployed: cargo planes; boats and wooden canoes on the Congo River, which is not always navigable; rickety trains; trucks on impassable roads motorbikes on potholed paths and also carriers.

"And to top it off," says Dodo Missingi, logistician at the UNICEF office in Kisangani, the rainy season has further complicated the situation.  At times the river’s force has been so strong that everyone has had to be careful not to allow the nets to sink. Furthermore, the trucks have been stuck on roads where bridges have been broken and in some instances  human strength has been required to bale the nets from one truck to another for them to continue their journey.

Roll back malaria

There is an atmosphere of excitement among the people who are set to receive the free nets. Monauie has 4 children and she declares that sometimes her 3 year old Samuel gets malaria several times in a month. “We are really very happy to receive these bed nets free of charge.  I will be able to replace my old nets which now have holes in them. That is how the mosquitoes get in, bite us and make us ill with malarial.”

UNICEF and her partners have pulled efforts together to roll back malaria in the DRC and particularly in the Oriental and Maniema provinces.


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