Canadian Red Cross expands campaign against malaria in Africa

Published: 17 April 2007 0:00 CET

Jean-Luc Martinage, International Federation

The Canadian Red Cross will expand its malaria programmes in Africa thanks to the renewed support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Canadian government announced Tuesday in Ottawa that Canada is committing Can $ 20 million to the Canadian Red Cross malaria programme and other malaria programmes aimed at saving lives in Africa.

"Through today's investment to the Canadian Red Cross, Canada is contributing to programs in Africa like the Malaria Bednet Campaign that are resulting in thousands of lives saved," said The Honourable Josée Vernier, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages.

Thanks to the new funding, more than two million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets will be distributed free-of-charge by thousands of Red Cross volunteers as part as an integrated child health strategy in Africa. It also builds upon the Canadian International Development Agency’s previous contribution of Can $ 26 million to the Canadian Red Cross to support similar malaria programming in Africa.

With the previous support from CIDA, the Canadian Red Cross developed a successful approach in malaria programming, combining programme expertise, resources, commodities, social mobilisation, logistics and planning, in close collaboration with partners including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It delivered more that 2.5 million free mosquito nets to six countries in Africa: Zambia, Togo, Niger, Mozambique, Malawi and Sierra Leone.

“Combining the strengths of the Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies with those of other partners is the ideal “recipe” for coordinated and scaled-up efforts that achieve impact”, says Jean Roy, Senior Public Health Advisor at the International Federation in Geneva.

Additionally, “The services that Red Cross volunteers provide such as extra manpower for large scale campaigns and for community mobilisation, ensure that donor inputs are properly delivered and correctly used after these campaigns,” he adds.

The 2006 Sierra Leone campaign was the sixth and largest bed-net campaign supported by the Canadian Red Cross. Co-ordinated by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health nearly 875,000 nets were delivered at 900 distribution points throughout the country thanks to the massive involvement of 4,000 trained Sierra Leone Red Cross volunteers.

Some 90 per cent of all Sierra Leonean children under five years of age were reached. This integrated campaign also included vaccination against measles, provided Vitamin A supplementation and deworming treatments. It is expected to save the lives of 5,000 children under the age of five in the first year alone.

With the new CIDA funding, the Canadian Red Cross plans to distribute 2.1 million nets in Burkina-Faso and 600,000 in Madagascar in 2007.

Mosquito net distribution is a cost-effective and successful way to help prevent malaria in sub-Saharan Africa where 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur. According to the Canadian Red Cross, the cost of purchasing a net, distributing it to families, training them to use it properly costs only Can $7 – a very cost effective intervention.

The malaria programme also highlights the strength of the Red Cross and Red Crescent unique approach of involving local communities with the participation of volunteers who are not only involved in distributing the nets but also provide advice on how to use them and check that they are properly hung long after campaign workers have gone.

“Together, we are supporting proven and cost-effective initiatives that will address the urgent, unmet needs of countries that bear a very high burden of malaria,” concludes Dr. Pierre Duplessis, Secretary-General of Canadian Red Cross.

This is why the Canadian Red Cross malaria programme, with the support of the International Federation and other partners, actively contributes to the achievement of the UN Millenium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.