Health workers in Niamey, the capital of
Niger, are worrying about the start of this year's rainy season. While
everyone is delighted to see the rains come after months of prolonged drought
and famine, the health workers know that the rains also mark the beginning
of the malaria season with much illness and death.
But this year, and thanks to the nationwide free distribution of long lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) in December 2005, and in March 2006, the people of Niger all have mosquito nets to protect themselves against the dreaded mosquitoes.
In order to be sure these nets are used correctly for protection, armies of volunteers are being mobilized to visit families throughout the country. They will encourage them to hang-up the nets and ensure that children and pregnant women who are at highest risk sleep under the nets every night during the rainy season. Working closely with the National Malaria Programme, the president of the Niger Red Cross, M. Ali Bandiare is leading more than 5,500 volunteers who will visit more than 10,000 villages and communities during the next two weeks of May.
"This massive mobilization is unprecedented and is made possible with funding support from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Canadian Red Cross and other Red Cross partners", explains Jean Roy, Senior Health Officer at the International Federation.
As one campaign worker, Dr. Guy Zimmermann, said during a recent training session, "the mosquitoes coming this year will find a formidable nationwide defense shield in almost every house in Niger if every household hangs and uses these nets". Indeed, Niger can turn a page in public health history and record the lowest number of malaria cases and deaths ever, if this volunteer army is successful in accomplishing its life-saving mission.
This "Hang-Up" effort during the last weeks of May, is demonstrating how volunteers who are also beneficiaries can be mobilized for community education. This is a vitally important follow-on to Niger's nationwide distribution of 2.3 million nets which was made possible with support from the Global Fund, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Swiss Tropical Institute, Niger Ministry of Health and its Malaria Programme, Niger Red Cross, Canadian CIDA through the Canadian Red Cross, Center for Medical Research (CERMES) Niger, Polio Eradication, WHO, UNICEF, the CDC, country NGOs, Norwegian Red Cross and NORAD, American Red Cross, and other national and international donors.
For more information on this biggest net distribution effort go to: http://www.ifrc.org/Docs/News/pr06/2406.asp and http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/media_center/press/pr060403.asp