Today is the start of the mass distribution of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLINs). During the next days (5-11 June), the entire country will be supplied with long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLINs) which is a major national strategy to prevent deaths caused by malaria.
In a context of extremely high national child-mortality rates, malaria is the main killer for children under-five in Sierra Leone. Worldwide, malaria is feared as a deadly disease transmitted by a bite from an infected mosquito. It is common in tropical and subtropical regions where rainfall, warm temperatures and stagnant waters provide an ideal environment for the mosquito larvae. As threating as malaria is, the high number of deaths in Sierra Leone due to malaria is totally unnecessary. Malaria can, in most cases, be prevented through simple measures.
Sleeping under long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets is one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria. LLINs are nets with insecticide integrated into their fibres; they remain effective against mosquitos for at least 3 years. Currently, they are the most powerful and cost-effective intervention for malaria control. It is an imperative: All people in Sierra Leone, especially children and pregnant women, should always sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets.
To make this a reality, 3,523,873 million mosquito nets are distributed all over Sierra Leone at the beginning of June; with special arrangements for the areas affected by the Ebola outbreak. This huge number of nets is required to cover the entire population estimated at 6,342,972 inhabitants. During the 2014 distribution, the Government, UNICEF and major development partners like DFID, the EU, the UMCOR, the Global Fund, World Vision, WHO and the WB joined hands to combat malaria.
Providing a whole country with mosquito nets, as a major strategy to control malaria, is a major logistical challenge. Procuring and shipping of nets, clearing of over 150 containers with nets from the port, transportation to various warehouses in the 13 districts in Sierra Leone – only indicate the bigger logistical steps. “We had to ask ourselves the question, how to ensure that each household gets the right amount of mosquito nets”, says Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Country Representative. “To respond to this challenge, we devised teams of 4 people that go from house-to-house in the entire country. They issue vouchers for LLINs based on the number of people sleeping in a household. With the vouchers in hand, household members then collect their mosquito nets at the closest distribution point.”
In order to increase synergies in the health sector, the 2014 distribution is carried out during the biannual Maternal and Child Health Week (5 – 11 June). This means that the distribution of nets is streamlined with the provision of other essential health services for children, namely Vitamin A and deworming with Albendazole. The distribution campaign will be followed by a “hang-up” campaign to ensure that the mosquito nets are used in the right manner.
*** by Rosmarie E. K. Jah, Reports Officer, External Relations and Advocacy, UNICEF Sierra Leone