The benefit of bednets: malaria cases drop in Darfur IDP camp
By Sven G. Simonsen
Nyala, South Darfur – January 2014: It’s a simple tool with great health benefits: ‘Since we started using bednets, none of us have been sick with malaria’, says Khadija, 37, who lives with her husband and five children in the Draij camp outside Nyala, South Darfur.
Khadija first learned about the importance of bednets to prevent malaria when she became a mother. At the local health clinic she saw information posters and staff told her about how to keep her children safe from the mosquitos whose bite transmits the deadly disease.
In recent years, the incidence of malaria in the camp has fallen sharply, says Ibrahim Altayeb, a medical assistant at the Patients’ Helping Fund’s primary health care clinic, which is located inside the camp.
Ibrahim attributes the improvement to the combination of effective treatments, improved sanitation – and preventative measures, above all the bed nets.
‘We used to have three or four malaria cases every week, now sometimes there is not a single one’, he says.
‘This is great progress, and it has been made possible thanks to the support of UNICEF, Global Fund and other partners’, he adds.
In 2002, 25,577 cases of malaria were registered in South Darfur. In 2011, the number had fallen to 15,054.
Bed nets now used by everyone
Khadija’s family and other families in Draij camp received bed nets from UNICEF through the Ministry of Health in 2011.
‘Everybody here uses bed nets now. Some, like our family, use them year-round, others use them mostly during the rainy season’, Khadija explains.
‘Bed nets are distributed according to the strata of malaria’, explains Jaafar, the malaria coordinator. Altitude, rainfall and temperature are factors that make an area more or less malaria-affected. In any area, malaria incidence escalates during the rainy season.
‘During the dry season in South Darfur, more than 70 per cent of mosquito habitats are in fact man-made ones’, Jaafar explains. Any place where there is still freshwater – for instance, the traditional clay water storage tanks still widely used by households – can be a breeding ground for mosquitos. Educating families about how to minimize this problem is one of the goals of information campaigns.
Eighty-three per cent of Sudan’s population live in areas with high transmission of malaria – more than 1 case per 1000 – according to WHO statistics.
Malaria prevention is an important part of UNICEF’s child health support in Sudan, and distributing bed nets and promoting their use is a key component of that effort. Over the last year, UNICEF, in collaboration with the Global Fund has facilitated the distribution of more than 4.6 million long lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) in 12 of Sudan’s 18 states.
Currently, UNICEF is implementing a sub-national campaign to scale-up the bed net use in five states, including South Darfur, with high malaria burden and low utilization of nets. UNICEF also supports antimalarial treatment for children under five, as well as malaria-related training of care providers, laboratory technicians, and malaria officers.