Mosquito nets to keep malaria at bay
By Misbah M. Sheikh with inputs from Cyriaque Ngoboka
June 2010, Mayange Village, Maranyundo Sector, Bugesera District, Rwanda – Seraphine Kabasinga, mother of four, has always been scared of malaria. And since she lives in an endemic-zone, just an hour east of Rwanda’s capital, she knows that malaria can kill.
“I would use tree branches like cypress as mosquito repellents on windows and close our doors before sunset to protect my family from mosquito bites”, she recalls. “When the first insecticide treated nets went on sale for a dollar in 2002, I bought one and we all used to sleep under it. Over the years, I have been able to buy more nets for the family because I know that prevention is better than a cure. Today young mothers are luckier than I was, because if you are pregnant and you go to a health centre for regular checkups, the government gives you a free net for you and your baby.”
And if you miss the health centre checkups, twice a year, during Rwanda’s bi-annual Mother and Child Weeks, health workers will find pregnant woman to give them a life-saving bed net free of charge.
It’s a strategy, supported by UNICEF, through the generous support of the Canadian Committee for UNICEF to “kick” malaria out of the country, In fact, improved malaria management, including home based care and community based distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets, through such events as the Mother and Child Health week has contributed to a rapid decline in malaria prevalence amongst under-five children, from 27% in 2000 to 2% in 2007.
“These Mother and Child Health Weeks are important, not only for ensuring that mothers and children receive critical life saving interventions”, says Dr. Joseph Foumbi, UNICEF Representative to Rwanda, “but to ensure that key messages related to accelerating maternal and child survival are passed to as many people as possible.”
“Before we started sleeping under these nets,” recalls Alvera Mukamana, a neighbour of Seraphine, I had at least one episode of malaria a month in my home. Now that we have long lasting mosquito nets, we have not had a case of malaria and I have saved money that has Household inenabled me to pay health insurance for all my family and invest in a small boutique”, she adds.
Although Rwanda has made considerable progress in improving maternal and child survival, around 25,000 children die each year before their first birthday, mostly from diseases like respiratory illness, diarrhoea and malaria.
UNICEF supports national efforts to reduce and treat malaria in Rwanda as well as broaden partnerships and leverage funds to mitigate malaria. UNICEF support, through the Canadian National Committee for UNICEF was critical during Rwanda’s recent emergency distribution of bednets.