Tanzania: Fighting malaria one bed net at a time

Publié: 2 août 2013 8:00 CET

By Katherine Mueller, IFRC

Little Jeanette sits quietly in her mother’s arms. At just three months of age, this infant, born in Nyarugusu refugee camp in northern Tanzania, has already suffered the sweats, chills and nausea that come with a bout of malaria. Her five-year-old sister Agnes has been hospitalized with the deadly disease. 

“I know malaria is caused by the bite of the mosquito,” says the children’s mother, 25-year-old Aziza  Edourd, “but I have no way of protecting my children. We used to have a mosquito net, but it was old and torn so we threw it away.”

Aziza has also suffered from malaria several times; one time when she was pregnant with Jeanette. During her last illness, she was hospitalized for four days, receiving treatment from staff at the Tanzania Red Cross Society.

“There are a lot of problems when I fall sick,” says Aziza. “There is no one to take care of the children; no one to prepare food or gather water or firewood.”

Aziza has been living in a Tanzanian refugee camp since fleeing conflict in her village in Congo at the age of ten. She attended school in a camp, married in a camp, and has twice given birth in a camp.

It is a similar story for her neighbour, 49-year-old Sylvester Benjamin. When war broke out in Burundi in 1993, Benjamin and his family fled to the safety of the refugee camps of Tanzania. One of his eight children is currently suffering from malaria. His wife miscarried and lost a child due to malaria. “I fear for the health of my children,” says Benjamin. “When the kids get malaria, they miss school, and we miss work so we can take care of them or take them to the hospital.”

The Benjamins have three mosquito nets, but like the Edourd family, their nets are ripped and no longer keep the buzzing insects at bay. Malaria is the number one killer in the Nyarugusu camp, affecting mostly pregnant women and children under the age of five. In the first four months of 2013, in a population of just over 68,000, more than 11,000 malaria cases were reported. 

To begin reversing this disturbing statistic, the Tanzania Red Cross National Society, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and in conjunction with the UN Foundation, has launched a campaign that will see every person living in the Nyarugusu refugee camp receive a long-lasting insecticide-treated net.

“We are providing one net for every two people, ensuring we reach everyone in the camp,” says Dr George Nangale, President of the Tanzania Red Cross National Society, “but we aren’t just distributing nets. Our volunteers are also educating refugees on malaria control and prevention measures. And they are visiting each household daily to ensure the bed nets are being used every night.”

“I am very happy to be receiving a net,” says Benjamin. “I know my family will no longer have malaria. And if my children are healthier, they will be able to fight off other illnesses. I will make sure we use the nets every night.”

“I don’t know what the future holds for me and my children,” says Aziza, “but I do know that we will at least be healthier, because these nets will protect us from malaria.”

Making strides in the fight against malaria