The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has signed contracts to distribute 2,265,000 mosquito nets in Niger in December 2005. The project aims to protect every child under five in Niger, a total of 3.5 million children.
This biggest distribution of mosquito nets ever undertaken in Africa is to be funded by USD11.3 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and USD2 million from the Canadian International Development Agency through the Canadian Red Cross.
Every Niger household whose children are vaccinated during a government polio campaign will be given a long-lasting insecticidal net. The Niger project follows the International Federation’s successful distribution of nearly one million nets during a measles campaign in Togo in 2004.
Malaria is a leading cause of death among children in Niger, where one child in four does not live to see his or her fifth birthday. Half of deaths among children under five are from malaria.
“We estimate that distributing 2,265,000 mosquito nets in Niger will save the lives of 40,000 children,” said Jean Roy, senior public health officer at the International Federation in Geneva.
The Federation is supporting the Niger Ministry of Health, which is coordinating the project with partners such as the Niger Red Cross, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and CERMES.
Niger Red Cross President Ali Bandiare said Red Cross volunteers and other community workers are crucial to the project. “The Red Cross grassroots network of volunteers can access even the remotest and most vulnerable communities. They will encourage people to visit the vaccination posts, explain how malaria is transmitted and how to hang the nets correctly.”
The agreement has the support of the Measles Partnership, the Polio Eradication Programme and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership – three networks made up of WHO, UNICEF, the International Federation, NGOs and other organisations to tackle Africa’s biggest public health challenges.
“As well as measuring the impact of the net distribution, funds will also help the Niger Ministry of Health set up an early warning system for malaria and other deadly epidemics common in the Sahel such as meningitis and cholera” said Dr Stefan Hoyer, the Federation’s malaria adviser for Africa.
Campaigns like these in Togo and Niger play a vital role in achieving the Millennium Development Goal to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. The campaign complements the International Federation’s work on the food crisis in Niger.