Senegal child survival days: mobilizing children to bring their bednets for treatment
Dakar, Senegal - It is Sunday morning 09.00 a.m. Not the usual time to see the school yard filled with children and to have teachers present in their class rooms…Today, however, is a special day in Dounga Woro Alpha, a village near Matam, in the remote north east of Senegal at the Mauritanian border. The region is celebrating the Child Survival Days. During these days, held annually during the last two weeks of May, all eligible children under 5 and mothers who recently gave birth are targeted and given vitamin A supplementation, de-worming tablets and their bed nets will be treated with insectide. On this Sunday, bed nets will be treated in every single village in the region to better protect against malaria.
Malaria is a cause of around 30 per cent of all child deaths in Senegal. In addition, malaria also hinders the development of those who survive. It’s a major cause of anemia and miscarriage for pregnant women. The disease is responsible for 30 to 50 per cent of all patient visits to health clinics and up to 50 per cent of all hospital admissions in Africa. In the region of Matam, malaria is a common illness especially during the rainy season between June and October. As it is such a common illness, the government and their partners have been strongly promoting the use of bed nets. As a result more and more people are now sleeping under bed nets to protect themselves from the mosquitoes that transmit the illness.
Two days ago, on Friday afternoon at the end of class, the teachers in Dounga Woro Alpha’s elementary school explained to the children the dangers of malaria and ways to prevent it. After informing them about malaria, the teachers had a special task for all their students: They asked them to bring their bed nets to school on Sunday morning. All bed nets brought to school would be treated with insecticide to better protect against malaria. Treating bed nets with insecticide once every 6 months provides a much higher degree of protection than a non treated net. As well as stopping their bites, treated nets kill mosquitoes.
The 6th grade teacher, mr El Hadj, has all its pupils present. All students brought their bed nets in plastic bags. For treatment of the bed nets he made the boys and girls stand in one line at the door of the classroom. They are all excited and curious about what is going on inside. One at a time, they are allowed into the classroom. Inside they meet a team of three heath volunteers who keep track of the number of nets treated, wash the nets, treat them with insecticide and then lay them out to dry. With the hot weather this takes only 15 minutes. Once a net is laid out to dry the student can stay next to it to make sure he takes the right bed net home. 11 year old Mariama explains; “we all sleep under bed nets at home. I have asked my parents whether I could bring our nets to school today so that ours’ would be treated as well. They were ok with this. When they are dry I will go home and hang them back in place. I am lucky and never had malaria in my life. But I my brother did. He was very ill. I will keep sleeping under a net for sure to protect myself.”
During the child survival days 62.951 bed nets were treated in the region of Matam for a cost of 0.70 USD per net . Properly used, these treated nets can cut malaria transmission by at least 50 per cent and child deaths due to malaria by an estimated 20 per cent.