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Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire redoubles its efforts to prevent malaria

Like many Ivorians, the Brou family know malaria – both Sabine and her son Israel have had the illness. With Ebola affecting countries that neighbour Côte d’Ivoire, prevention and treatment of malaria are a high priority for health officials.  Download this video

 

By Edward Bally

As Ebola exacts its toll on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire ramps up efforts to protect Ivorians from a deadly, endemic disease that can mimic its early symptoms – malaria.

YAMOUSSOUKRO, Côte d’Ivoire, 7 January 2015 – The Brou family know malaria. Two years ago, Sabine Brou contracted the disease.

“I was in working in the field with my husband, and, when I came back home, I started feeling very tired,” she recalls. “As soon as I lay down, I felt so weak that I could not stand back up. I had a lot of fever; I was throwing up all the time. I was very scared to die.”

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Cote d’Ivoire is ramping up its efforts to prevent malaria by distributing 13 million mosquito nets to families. The nets will protect Ivorians like the Brou family from the mosquitoes that transmit malaria, which are active from dusk till dawn.

Last year, Ms. Brou’s son Israel took ill. He was 1 year old. Ms. Brou and her husband Augustin brought Israel to the doctor, who diagnosed the baby with malaria. He gave the family medicine, as well as an important instruction.

“He advised us to sleep under a mosquito net,” says Ms. Brou.
A deadly, endemic disease

The Brou family live in the village of Oufoué Diekro, in the district of Yamoussoukro, in Côte d’Ivoire. Malaria is endemic in Côte d’Ivoire.

The symptoms that Ms. Brou and Israel had are common to people suffering from the illness. If malaria is left untreated, it can cause severe complications, and death. Each year, more than 460,000 children under the age of 5 die of malaria, worldwide.

The parasite that causes malaria is spread by mosquitoes that are most active between dusk and dawn. Sleeping under mosquito nets – which are treated with insecticide – vastly reduces malaria infection. Long-lasting insecticidal nets are simple to use and can be effective for three years. They are the first line of defence against malaria.

Before Israel contracted malaria, the Brou family did not sleep under mosquito nets. Ms. Brou says they couldn’t afford the nets. So they slept under the threat of being bitten by mosquitoes.
Redoubled effort to battle malaria

With Ebola affecting countries that neighbour Côte d’Ivoire, health officials have prioritized prevention and treatment of malaria. A nationwide campaign to distribute 13 million mosquito nets to protect every household against malaria was launched in December.

“There is indeed urgency to do this mass distribution since the Ebola threat is at our borders, and, at the beginning, Ebola symptoms are similar to malaria,” explains Minister of Health Dr. Raymonde Goudou-Coffie. In fact, the symptoms of malaria – fever, headache, aching joints – are so similar to those of Ebola in its early stages that it could be misdiagnosed. Reducing the number of people exhibiting a high fever is essential in the proper treatment of malaria, and, ultimately, in the fight against Ebola.

UNICEF Representative in Côte d’Ivoire Adele Khudr discusses the importance of addressing malaria, itself, in the context of continuing to prevent Ebola’s arrival in Côte d’Ivoire. “Despite the threat of Ebola in Côte d’Ivoire, it is important to maintain large-scale public health activities to protect children who are particularly vulnerable to malaria.”

The campaign, which is being organized by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and CARE, will cover all of Côte d’Ivoire. It aims to provide one net for every two people in the country. The procurement of 13 million mosquito nets was made possible by a US$55 million grant from the Global Fund.

“Mosquito net distribution is one of the most effective ways to reduce child mortality. [I]t is also important to inform people how to use nets properly in order to save lives,” says Ms. Khudr.

Thousands of volunteers have been recruited around the country to help distribute and train the population on how to use the mosquito nets.
A family protected

The Brou family did not have to travel far to fetch their mosquito nets. A distribution took place in Oufoué Diekro.

“[W]e were given two mosquito nets for free,” she says. “Some families received two or three of them, some even more, as they have a lot of children.”

Now that Ms. Brou and her family have received their brand-new mosquito nets, they are protected against malaria.

“The money we used to spend at the hospital, we now keep it to ourselves to buy food, to better our lives and those of our children,” she says.

“I am very happy that today, my husband, my child and I feel safe when we sleep at night.”


 

 

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