Unprecedented mass distribution of bed nets to prevent malaria in eastern DR Congo
Kinshasa, DRC, 14 December 2009 – Over two million children under the age of five and their families will be among some 10 million people to benefit from the largest distribution of insecticide treated bed nets ever organised in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The distribution campaign kicked off at the Rosalia Health centre on Friday in Kisangani, the capital of Oriental Province.
In attendance were H.E Emile Bongeli, Vice Prime Minister responsible for Reconstruction in the DRC, H.E Mwami Mopipi Mukulumanya, DRC’s Minister for Public Health, Alan Court, Sr. Advisor to the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and other dignitaries.
There are an estimated 24 million cases of malaria each year among all Congolese, and very few can afford the standard treatment which costs around US$0.15.
The lack of protection and access to treatment means that an estimated 180,000 children under five die of malaria each year in the DRC.
"The aim of this mass campaign is to prevent the transmission of malaria to children in Oriental and Maniema provinces; and to offer them the chance to survive and grow up in good health" said Emile Bongeli at the official launch.
UNICEF is distributing the 5.5 million long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLINs) at no cost to 1.8 million households in the provinces of Oriental and Maniema.
The overall operation has cost $36 million with the cost of the nets provided by the innovative financing agency, UNITAID.
Each household in the two provinces will receive 3 bed nets to ensure that everyone in the household can sleep under an LLIN.
Mr. Alan Court said that in addition to the heavy social costs, malaria substantially reduces productivity in the countries that are severely affected.
He referred to studies published since 2000, and which estimate between US$12 billion and 30 US$12 billion, the loss of revenue on the African continent brought about by malaria.
He argued that daily use of insecticide treated bed nets is one of the simplest and most effective ways to avoid mosquito bites and reduce malaria among communities.” He argued that if at least 60% of households in a community use insecticide treated nets, the repellent effect of the nets will drive away mosquitoes from that community and reduce the incidence of malaria by about 20%.
Referring to campaign Pierrette Vu Thi, UNICEF Representative in the DRC recalled that we are celebrating the 20th Anniversary celebration of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this year, and it is also an occasion to accelerate strategies aimed at ensuring child survival on the African continent.
"Congolese children make up almost 20% of the entire population of 5 year-olds and below in West and Central Africa. That means one out of every five lives here in the Congo. The use of insecticide treated bednets will contribute to a significant reduction in the number of children dying each year of malaria, in the DRC, and also in the sub region."
UNICEF’s operation in the DRC among the largest in the world, and it has been able to mobilize major partners like UNITAID, European Union, World Bank, USAID, and WFP among others, together with civil society and major national faith-based organisations in the DRC in this campaign against malaria.
Two UN organizations, MONUC and the World Food Programme provided some logistical support to this all important activity.
The logistical cost of the operation is estimated at US$7million.
It has drawn on various traditional and untraditional forms of transport in order to reach the relatively inaccessible communities in corners of the two provinces: ships and 10 barges, 36 train-wagons, 1,000 trucks, 1,200 bicycles, 20 outboard motorised boats, 55 dugout canoes and thousands of porters on various locations.
In addition, 200 depots and warehouse of varying sizes and capacities were needed to stock and transit the 5.5million bed nets.
The campaign is also benefiting from massive communication support to ensure that the households use the mosquito nets regularly and properly.
UNICEF is drawing on its partnership with the five major faith based organisations in the DRC to send key behavior messages and promote better family health practices through their national networks to the millions of families in the two provinces.