By Nfally Sadio in Senegal
Sakal is a small village in the north of Senegal, wedged between the Louga and St. Louis. Here, as in many villages in the Sahel, malaria is the leading cause of death among children under five and pregnant women, but local health facilities were not typically able to deal with so many cases.
In an attempt to combat this trend, Sakal was enrolled in the fifth phase of a programme of universal coverage that aims to provide each bed in the village to have a mosquito net impregnated with long-acting insecticide. This is one of the most effective malaria prevention measures available.
In support of the National Program against Malaria (NMCP), the Senegalese Red Cross, has been engaged in this campaign to distribute treated nets in the health districts of Sakal, Luga, Coki, and Kébémer in Keur Momar Sarr Louga.
To help raise the profile of the campaign, the Senegalese Red Cross bought in Penda Ly, Miss Senegal 2012, as its Goodwill Ambassador. In the field, she accompanies a team of 832 volunteers and 98 supervisors trained to raise awareness and distribute bed net with the aim of achieving universal coverage in many villages.
"This is an opportunity for me to commit myself firmly within this campaign against malaria by encouraging the daily use of treated mosquito nets in every family throughout the year, every night, " said Penda Ly at the launch of the initiative.
Khady Cissokho, first aid instructor with the Senegalese Red Cross, said Penda Ly’s involvement in the campaign had proved effective in recruiting volunteers and gaining coverage of the initiative. "Her presence with us is a source of motivation for all voluntary and community supervisors. It also has a positive impact in households who have been touched by this massive campaign in the region of Louga.”
Sakal was one of the villages Miss Senegal visited during a recent tour highlighting the best way to use treated bed nets.
"I will use the nets every day, and maintain them properly," says Fama Gueye, delighted to have received his nets from the hands of Penda Ly.
Miko Thomas, from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: "A major challenge of these campaigns of mass distribution of mosquito nets is to promote correct and consistent use of the nets over the long term. The involvement of celebrities in this communication campaign of and the active role of the National Society, are important to ensure significant impact."
According to Dr. Abdoulaye Wone, Head of the Department of Health at the Senegalese Red Cross: "Our National Society has a strong advantage is its ability to mobilize the community through its volunteers who know the area well. They are already used to working with the head nurses on other promotional campaigns such as National Immunization Days."
The campaign, which is targeting 45,000 households in the region of Louga, received financial support from the IFRC.