More than a million mosquito nets are being distributed in the Central African Republic in a bid to protect children and pregnant women from malaria. The effort by the Government of the CAR and UNICEF aims to put at least one long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net (LLIN) into each of the country’s 896,000 households in the coming months.
“Malaria is one of the main causes of child deaths in the Central African Republic, and the nets are part of our strategy to reduce its impact on young children and pregnant women,” said UNICEF’s representative in CAR, Tanya Chapuisat, at the launch of the campaign.
The country has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. Some 173 out of 1,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, and malaria accounts for an estimated 19 per cent of these deaths.
Ms. Chapuisat also said that UNICEF CAR needs an additional 1.5 million LLINs and US$ 1 million for logistical costs to be able to achieve full coverage for all people at risk of malaria.
Regular use of LLINs can decrease malaria mortality by about 20 per cent and malaria incidence by 50 per cent in children aged under 5, who, together with pregnant women, are most at risk. When combined with early diagnosis and treatment, the use of LLINs can reduce malaria mortality by over 50 per cent.
UNICEF and partners will be distributing the LLINs directly to the communities in three phases, starting with Ouham, Ouham Pendé and Basse Kotto prefectures and expanding in the next two phases to the country’s other thirteen prefectures. With the rainy season fast approaching, this is a timely campaign to protect hundreds of thousands families at risk from the disease in CAR.
The mass distribution will go hand in hand with a social mobilisation campaign that will educate people on the importance and benefits of sleeping under an LLIN. “We don’t want to just distribute the nets, we want people to use them,” said Ms. Chapuisat. “If necessary, we will go door to door to demonstrate how to hang up a net and to persuade every family that it could save their children’s lives.”
Ms. Chapuisat noted that the nets were provided by UNITAID, an international financing facility established as a mechanism to accelerate access to treatment and care for HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. But much remains to be done if CAR wants to achieve the national goal of universal coverage by 2015. Continuous instability in the north is making it difficult to reach large parts of the population, including over 300,000 internally displaced, returnees and refugees from neighbouring countries.