In Angola, mosquito nets keep malaria out

Woman in Bengo Province treks for kilometers to receive one of 44,000 mosquito nets in distribution after fever outbreaks.

By Heitor Lourenço
Sonia and her daughter
UNICEF Angola/2016/Gonzalez
21 June 2016

After hearing worrying stories about fever outbreaks in nearby provinces, Sonia and her neighbours trekked several kilometres to a mosquito net distribution point. The nets they received will help the women and their families protect themselves from malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. With support from UNICEF, about 44,000 mosquito nets were distributed in communities and health facilities across Angola’s Bengo Province.

DANDE, Angola, 21 June 2016 – Sonia rests on a piece of wood with her 2-year-old daughter on her lap. She and two of her neighbours have walked several kilometres to reach this point. Next to her is exactly what she came for: a stack of four neatly-packed mosquito bed nets. 

The young mother of two is one of the beneficiaries of a mosquito net distribution held in Panguila Commune, which is about 21 km from the centre of Bengo Province in Angola. The distribution point was organized by health staff in coordination with community leaders.

Recently, people in Sonia’s region have grown worried after hearing about fever outbreaks in bordering provinces. She decided to make the trek to get nets after hearing about the distribution from a neighbour.

Before receiving her nets, she and her daughter had to pass a quick malaria test – fortunately, it was negative for both of them. Despite the result, she says she cannot relax because of the stories she has heard of people who have been dying from strange fevers, including malaria and yellow fever.

“It is important to use mosquito nets because fevers are killing," says Sonia. "In our village, fevers, dirty water and mosquitoes never stop.”

A persistent threat

Malaria is still one of the biggest killers in Angola. Nearly half of under-five deaths are caused by the disease.

Children and adults at the Panguilla commune
UNICEF Angola/2016/Gonzalez
Children and adults at the Panguilla commune, municipality of Dande, Angola, having their malaria tests done before receiving their mosquito nets. About 44,000 mosquito nets were distributed to 22,000 families in communities and health facilities in the province of Bengo.

“Every year, more than 234 deaths occur in every 1,000 children from this illness caused by mosquito bites,” says Titus Angi, Health and Immunization Specialist at UNICEF Angola. “The distribution of mosquito nets held in the province of Bengo is part of the response actions to combat disease, developed by the Provincial Health Direction,” he says. 

About 44,000 mosquito nets were distributed to 22,000 families in communities and health facilities in this province, thanks to the support of UNICEF with funding from the Bestseller Foundation. 

Protecting children and pregnant women

On a visit to a health facility in Musseque Capari, we meet Elisa, 19. She lives in this neighbourhood and studies at the Panguila Government Secondary School in the municipality of Dande. Elisa has a 3-month-old girl and lives with her mother in a small one bedroom residence.

She first heard about the use of nets to prevent mosquito bites and malaria at her school. When she was pregnant, she also heard messages about malaria prevention from staff at the Musseque Kikoka health post close to her home. The post provides services to an estimated population of 2,000 people. Workers at the centre have been distributing mosquito nets to mothers with children under 5 years of age and pregnant women who come for outpatient consultations. 

Elisa with her baby under the old mosquito net
UNICEF Angola/2016/Lourenco
Elisa with her baby under the old mosquito net that she will substitute with the new insecticide treated net. When she was pregnant, Elisa learned about the importance of sleeping under insecticide-treated nets from staff at the health post close to her home.

Recently, one of Elisa’s neighbours who had not been using mosquito nets contracted malaria. Elisa says the nets are very expensive for most of the families in her community, who are just peasant farmers. Instead, they prefer to use cheaper mosquito coils, which are burned to repel insects with their smoke. Elisa doesn’t like to use these coils because they make her cough and do not efficiently prevent mosquito bites and malaria. 

“I will recommend friends and neighbours to sleep under mosquito nets because they prevent many diseases. Pregnant women and children should also use them,” she says.

Elisa has been sleeping under a mosquito net since last year, but it was not treated with insecticide when she was pregnant. “That’s why I am grateful to the health post staff who gave me a net treated with insecticide for me and my baby,” she says.

When we ask her what she will do if the donated net gets torn or worn out, she replies, “I would get money to buy a new one because using a net is good for my health.”

Staying inside the house is difficult for Elisa because of the heat, even at night. But she says that despite the high temperatures, she still uses her mosquito net – being uncomfortable is a small price to pay for avoiding malaria.