Sierra Leone, UNICEF team up for anti-malaria campaign

The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and UNICEF, along with other partners, are collaborating on a $23 million anti-malaria campaign, attempting to get insecticide-treated mosquito nets into each household in the country and to ensure their proper use.

Sierra Leone has had a long history with malaria and was once nicknamed “White Man’s Grave” because of its high death rates, VOA News reports.

Malaria is the leading cause of death and disease in Sierra Leone. An average resident suffers three to four bouts of the disease each year. This new, first-of-its-kind campaign aims to reduce malaria cases by up to 40 percent.

“It means that we aim for two bed nets per household. That was how we estimated,” Lianne Kuppens, head of child survival and development at the United Nation’s Childrens Fund in Sierra Leone, said, according to VOA News. “We have roughly 6 million people and we have 3.2 million bed nets already in the country as we speak. So it’s the first time ever that we are going for universal coverage of bed nets.”

Health teams will go from house to house to reach even the most remote residents. This is a difficult task due to poor road networks. The aid of the army has been enlisted. A treated mosquito net lasts up to five years and costs $6.

Many mosquito nets are used improperly as shower scrubs, vegetable protection and fishing nets.

“We want people to use the bed nets," Kuppens said, VOA News reports. "Unfortunately, we have in Sierra Leone roughly, well, the figure is below 25 percent of the children do sleep under a bed net. So there is a tremendous task with regard to behavior change, that we ensure that people really do sleep under the bed nets."

Religious leaders, street theater and community radio will all make an effort to convince people to hang their nets instead of using them for other purposes.