Thanks to the mosquito nets, it’s been over a year since any of my children have caught malaria

Since January 2020, UNICEF and the United Nations Foundation set up a malaria prevention and treatment project in the village of Gotheye

By Islamane Abdou
Les moustiquaires nous sauvent la vie
UNICEF Niger/Pirozzi
23 September 2021

The rain has just stopped in the village of Bangoutara. Ramatou, aged 47, hangs mosquito nets for herself and her five children. ’It’s become a sort of ritual for me – when the sun goes down, I hang our mosquito nets. We wouldn’t sleep without them any more. We were so relieved when they were distributed, our village was sick and tired of mosquitoes, says the mother of five.

In Bangoutara, as in thousands of villages in Niger, malaria is one of the main causes of child mortality, especially in the rainy season.  Unfortunately, even though sleeping under mosquito nets is known to be one of the best preventative measures against malaria, many families cannot afford them. More than 10 million Nigeriens live in extreme poverty, and in certain parts of the country mosquito nets are still seen as luxury purchases.

‘Before this donation, mosquito nets were sold on the market at between 3.500 (6.3 USD) and 4,000 Fcfa (7.2 USD), and a,’amily the size of ours needs at least three mosquito nets,’ says Ramatou. ‘With no money, we burnt dry neem leaves in an attempt to repel the mosquitoes but it didn’t stop them from biting us, and we ended up in hospital regularly’, she added.

Les moustiquaires nous sauvent la vie

Through its National Malaria Control Programme, the government of Niger has worked tirelessly in recent years to eradicate this disease and prevent the deaths of thousands of children each year in Niger.  In January 2020, to support these efforts, UNICEF and the United Nations Foundation set up a malaria prevention and treatment project in the commune of Gotheye, in the Tillabery region, in the west of Niger. In 2021, this project continues in its active phase.

This initiative has enabled the purchase and distribution of more than 135,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets and promoted their use in households, including those displaced by armed conflicts. It has also enabled malaria preventative treatment for pregnant women through prenatal care in healthcare facilities and malaria treatment for children under 5 through community health workers. 

’Last year, all families in our village received mosquito nets and they’ve been distributed again this year. We and our children have understood the importance of sleeping under the mosquito nets. It’s been over a year since any of my children have caught malaria,’ says a happy Ramatou.

Today, pregnant women and children aged between 0 and 9 years old from 124 villages in the health district of Gotheye continue to receive mosquito nets thanks to community distributions.

Les moustiquaires nous sauvent la vie

In the 19 health centres located in the district of Gotheye, village health committees have allocated mosquito nets to pregnant women and children aged between 0 and 9 years, identified ahead of time through household counts in preparation for the community distribution.  In addition, other buffer stocks have been sent to the integrated health centres for pregnant women attending prenatal consultations. The project has also purchased 183,000 sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine tablets to prevent malaria in pregnant women. 

’It’s a good idea to give mosquito nets and preventative treatment to pregnant women. It will help save many people. Here, pregnancy loss due to malaria is not uncommon’, says Ramatou.

The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets must go hand-in-hand with good hygiene and sanitation, and community health workers, themselves members of the community, must raise awareness among families on good practices and habits that help reduce the proliferation of insects as well as reducing risks from insect bites.