Kebemer District, June 6, 2012 The United States continues to play a leading role in supporting the Government of Senegal’s campaign to reduce malaria in the country by distributing and promoting use of long lasting insecticide treated nets over every sleeping space – from carved beds down to mats in open courtyards.
Between June 1 and 6, all eight health districts in the Louga region launched their universal coverage net distribution campaigns. Louga and Ziguinchor regions make up the fifth phase of an activity implemented by the National Malaria Control Program, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Senegalese Red Cross and other partners, in which more than 971,000 nets are being distributed in an effort to cover every sleeping space in the two regions.
The program, which uses the “three T’s” approach which translates to “All the Family, All Year, and Every Night” in English – builds upon earlier campaigns that focused on pregnant women and children, and seeks instead to cover every sleeping space in the country.
With the completion of these two regions, nearly four million people can now sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets. According to Senegal’s latest Demographic and Health Survey, 63 percent of all households owned at least one insecticide-treated net, but this figure was 90 percent in the regions that had already benefitted from the universal coverage campaign.
“This program fills a real need,” said Dr. Amadou Yére Camara, Chief Medical Officer for Kebemer Health District. “Fewer people sick from malaria improves the local economy, keeps children in school where they belong, and allows my staff and I the time to treat more patients with other illnesses.”
Assane Mbaye, Chief Nurse at the Thiolom Fall Health Post outside Kebemer, reported treating just three cases of malaria in the seven months since he has arrived, none involving children, and no deaths.
“With the new net distribution, I anticipate the prevalence of malaria to be next-to-none,” Mbaye said. “It’s a given that mosquitos carry malaria. The treated net is our best weapon to fight that reality.”
He added that local officials, including village chiefs and the health committee, have been extremely helpful in providing support for communications activities to publicize the campaign, as well as vehicles and volunteers to aid with the distribution, which took place at numerous sites to avoid the gathering of large crowds. Health post outreach volunteers also trained villagers on how to effectively use and care for the nets.
The distributions were preceded by a door-to-door census that determined the bed net requirements of every household in the region. To prevent any re-selling of the nets after distribution, the biodegradable packaging was removed and the nets were marked with the name of the head of household, the village name, and the date.
U.S. funding for the activity comes through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), a cross-cutting effort managed by USAID in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that since 2007 has provided more than fiv million bed nets nationwide. The PMI has also contributed more than $2 million to support operations related to the universal coverage approach (such as transportation, communications, and data collection).
USAID collaborates with other agencies like the U.S. Peace Corps, UN partners, including UNICEF, and non-governmental organizations such as the Senegalese and International Red Cross and Secours Islamique France.
“These nets were provided through the PMI and its partners, but the real credit belongs to the communities,” Pascal Zinzindohoue, a PMI representative from USAID in Washington, DC, told villagers in the village of Kanene Ndiob. “You have been willing to mobilize your resources to carry the message that every family member should use bed nets every night, all year long for a happier, healthier life.”
The PMI currently operates in 17 countries in Africa, and since its inception has contributed nearly $100 million to fight the disease in Senegal.