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Real lives

Mosquito nets are saving children’s lives in Mozambique

Rachelle, 16, is peeling green and red vegetables in front of her house. She is preparing a traditional dish that is supposed to protect against malaria and hepatitis. The fear of malaria is everywhere in Mozambique and for good reason. Every year, over 25,000 children under five years of age die of malaria, which remains the leading cause of infant mortality.

Rachelle and her family have several mosquito nets inside the house. “My mother got the net two years ago after the big flood,” says Rachelle. “Every night, I put the sleeping mat on the floor, unroll the net and tuck it under the mat. I sleep there with my little nephew. We sleep better and we haven’t had malaria since we got the net,” she adds with a shy smile.
In Mozambique, UNICEF supports a number of activities related to malaria, focusing on the procurement of insecticide-treated nets. While these activities started on a small scale a few years ago, the devastating flood that affected Mozambique in February 2000 changed the magnitude of UNICEF’s assistance.
The district of Gaza, a few hours from the capital Maputo, was particularly affected by the flood. Many buildings still show the water marks on their walls, some two or three metres from the ground. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and lost their houses and belongings. Because of the stagnating water, malaria rapidly became a major health problem. In consultation with the Government of Mozambique, UNICEF together with other organizations such as Oxfam and Merlin procured over 200,000 mosquito nets and insecticide treatment kits for 100,000 families.
During the distribution of nets, families were informed about the use of nets and their re-treatment. Trucks loaded with mosquito nets would arrive in villages in the morning. Each truck was accompanied by an activiste, a health educator. The activiste would first explain the benefits of using mosquito nets and hold a demonstration on how to treat nets before distributing them.

In 2001 and 2002, UNICEF supported the province in carrying out a massive campaign for the re-treatment of nets with insecticide.

The results have been significant: a survey conducted in September 2001 showed that 96 per cent  of families were using their nets.



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