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Uganda: School Health Club helps students and communities stay safe from diseases

“The School Health Club has taught us how to look after our health. I also bring the knowledge I learn from the club to my home, and my parents take those messages to the wider community.”These are the words of Kikanshemeza, a pupil at Mwisi Primary school in south-west Uganda and proud member of her School Health Club.Set up by the Uganda Red Cross, the School Health Club helps primary and secondary school pupils understand how to protect themselves from various disease threats, stay healthy, and share their newfound knowledge with their fellow pupils, families, and wider communities.It’s one of the many different activities under the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3) – a multi-country programme run by the IFRC and seven Red Cross National Societies to help communities, first responders, and other partners prepare for, detect, prevent, and respond to health risks.Since joining her School Health Club, Kikanshemeza has built a tippy tap—a simple, low-cost handwashing facility that can help reduce up to 50% of avoidable infections—in her home, supported her family to use it regularly and properly, and shared life-saving information about different diseases.“She told us not to eat the meat of animals that have died and to make sure they are buried properly, and also that bats are a potential cause of Ebola and monkeys can transmit it too,” explains Kikanshemeza’s mother, Annet.Knowledge is powerKikanshemeza is one of 30 School Health Club members at Mwisi Primary school. The club meets up once a week in special sessions led by Akampurira, a facilitator from the Uganda Red Cross, who teaches them all about different diseases—including how to recognize signs and symptoms, which people might be most at risk, and actions the students can take to stop diseases from spreading.Club members are then responsible for maintaining school handwashing facilities, making sure all students follow proper hygiene practices, and sharing what they’ve learned with their follow students—often through large, theatrical performances in the school hall.Students act out informative and lively scenes: everything from a patient seeking help from a doctor after noticing signs of malaria, to a person being bitten by a dog in the street and rushing to get vaccinated.Tackling serious health issues in this more fun and light-hearted way helps break down complex topics, keeps fellow students engaged, and helps them retain the knowledge in case they need it in future.Why involve school children in epidemic preparedness?The IFRC and our member National Societies have long focused on helping people prepare for, respond to, and recover from epidemics.We know from experience that effective epidemic preparedness must involve communities themselves, first responders, and partners from across all parts of society – such as schools.“School health clubs have been a game changer in health risk communication, as engaged learners have been excellent peer educators in school, and also change agents at the household level,” explains Henry Musembi, CP3 Programme Delegate for Uganda and Kenya.“The clubs are a great platform for training the next generation of epidemic emergency responders and champions in target communities,” he adds.Seeing positive changeKushaba, another School Health Club member whose brother had previously suffered from malaria, says he’s learned a lot from the club and has noticed positive change in his community:“We learned how we can control malaria by slashing compounds, draining all stagnant water to destroy habitat for mosquitoes, and how you can use a treated mosquito net.”“Before the introduction of the School Health Club, we didn’t have tippy taps, we didn’t know how to use toilets, even how we can clean our school. Pupils, they were suffering from diseases like malaria, cholera, but now because of the School Health Club, they are fine,” he adds.--The School Health Club in Mwisi is one of several set up in Uganda and other countries through the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3).Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the programme runs in seven countries and supports communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other partners to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats.If you enjoyed this story and would like to learn more:Visit our Epidemic and pandemic preparedness webpageSign up to the IFRC’s epidemic and pandemic preparedness newsletter

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3 billion mosquito nets shipped to prevent malaria

Geneva – 30 Nov 2023 / On the same day the World Health Organization releases its 2023 World Malaria Report, the  Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP) reveals that a significant milestone has been reached. Three billion insecticide treated nets (ITNs) have been shipped since 2004 to prevent malaria, most of them to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. These ITNs are estimated to be responsible for two-thirds of the reduction in malaria cases over the past decades. Thanks to the efforts of national malaria programmes and partners, about 68% of households across sub-Saharan Africa own at least one net. Most of these nets have been bought via funds from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States President’s Malaria Initiative, UNICEF and the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF).  In 2022 alone, more than 190 million ITNs were distributed globally by National Malaria Programmes in malaria endemic countries. Of these 180 million were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.  Petra Khoury, Director of the Health and Care Department at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which houses the Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP), said:  “Three billion is a staggering number – a number reached by phenomenal efforts by people in many countries. Those nets have, over two decades, saved countless lives. Malaria will continue to be a threat, particularly in a warming world. But insecticide treated nets are the most effective tool we have to tackle it.”    In 2004, Togo rolled out the very first nationwide mosquito net campaign targeting children under five years of age with an integrated package of life-saving interventions. Twenty years and six ITN mass distribution campaigns later, Dr Tinah Atcha-Oubou, coordinator of the Togo National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), says the mass distribution of bed nets has had a dramatically positive impact on malaria mortality and mobility. Dr Atcha-Oubou says the NMCP in Togo is aiming for malaria elimination.   ‘We have a vision for our country, a Togo without malaria. We want to free communities from the burden of malaria to improve the economic growth of Togo. Malaria prevention strategies have shown promising results, we also have access to efficient tools to reach this goal. We are hopeful that we can eliminate malaria in the same way that many other countries already have’.   Access to and use of mosquito nets are essential to keep Togo on track for malaria elimination. Investments from partners at national and international level must continue to ensure that the country can keep working towards this goal.  The Alliance for Malaria Prevention’s Net Mapping Project has been independently tracking net shipments from the very first national campaign in 2004 in Togo. Funded by the United Nations Foundation through the United to Beat Malaria campaign,andledby the IFRC, the Net Mapping Project data informs the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report each year, feeding into modeled estimates of ITN coverage across the globe.  Global partners commented on the milestone:  ‘Nets are one of the best tools in our arsenal in the fight to end malaria. The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative is proud to support this historic milestone and applauds the work of AMP and our partners to strengthen the capacity of national malaria programs to distribute nets to the communities that need them most and to track and report data.’  Dr. David Walton, U.S. President’s Global Malaria Coordinator  “The Global Fund remains committed to improving the lives of communities suffering under the burden of malaria. Helping the countries we support ensure optimal vector control coverage is a cornerstone of our malaria strategy. The milestone of 3 billion ITNs should be celebrated and act as catalyst to further drive towards achieving and sustaining this life saving intervention.”  Scott Filler, Head of Malaria, Technical Advice and Partnerships Department, Global Fund  "This landmark achievement of shipping 3 billion insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) represents a crucial step forward in our fight against malaria. The widespread distribution of ITNs with intensive Behaviour Change Communication at community level has contributed significantly to reducing malaria transmission, protecting vulnerable populations, and saving lives.   Keziah Malm, National Coordination of National Malaria Elimination Program in Ghana  Further Information: In the last few years, an increasing proportion of ITNs shipped have contained active ingredients designed to mitigate the effects of insecticide resistance. In 2022, of the 281.5 million ITNs that manufacturers delivered to malaria endemic countries, 47% were treated with a synergist, pyrethroid-piperonyl butoxide (PBO), and 8% were dual active ingredient ITNs, which have combined insecticides with different modes of action.  While protecting people from malaria remains critical, the global community also recognises the environmental footprint of ITNs for vector control from the point of manufacture through exit from the supply chain given the heavy reliance on plastic for the nets themselves and their packaging. Responsible collection and disposal of plastic waste at the point of distribution and as nets become unserviceable for malaria prevention is, therefore, an integral part of many national malaria programmes’ vector control strategies.  Global and national stakeholders and partners are working together to find solutions to limit the amount of waste generated and to ensure more sustainable and environmentally focused supply chains for vector control with ITNs.    Despite the efforts of national malaria programs and their funding, the latest World Malaria Report notes that global malaria cases and deaths in 2022 were higher than in 2019, mostly due to the disruption of services during the COVID19 pandemic. Countries most affected include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Papua New Guinea. The World Health Organization estimates that there were 608’000 malaria deaths in 2022 – 32’000 more deaths than in the year before the pandemic.   The 2023 World Malaria Report also highlights that the funding gap between the amount invested in malaria control and elimination and the resources needed continues to widen. It grew from US$2.3 billion in 2018 to US$ 3.7 billion globally in 2022. Despite the shortage of funding, continued research and development to address insecticide resistance reinforced efforts of national malaria programs and their partners to deliver services to all populations at risk. Significant work to generate sufficient funding to support national malaria strategic plans remain critical in ensuring that the fight against malaria remains on track towards the WHO 2030 targets.    For further details please contact: [email protected]   Andrew Thomas   International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent +41763676587  Tommaso Della Longa   International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent +41797084367  There are spokespeople available to talk about this announcement, including Petra Khoury, the IFRC’s Director of Health and Care.    Partners:   The Alliance for Malaria Prevention receives funding support from USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF).  Since 2013, the Net Mapping Project has been funded by the United Nations Foundation and the IFRC. 

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Communicable diseases

Communicable diseases are diseases that spread from person to person or from animals to humans. Learn about various communicable diseases below and about what the IFRC and our National Societies do to keep communities around the world healthy.

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