Fighting Malaria in Ethiopia
Thousands of Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets, or mosquito bed-nettings, were handed out by a U.S. Army Civil Affairs team to the people of Hayo Oda Kebele, Dollo Mena District, Bale Zone, Ethiopia, April 26, 2010.
"We are distributing 35,000 nets to a population of approximately 93,000 people," said Lieutenant Daniel Deckard, commander of the Civil Affairs team, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. "That's approximately two nets per household," he said.
The distribution is part of the President's Malaria Initiative (PMI), a $1.2 billion project to combat malaria. The infection is often carried by mosquitoes, and is one of the leading causes of the deaths of pregnant women and children under five years of age in Africa. According to PMI annual reports it is a five-year project that began in 2006. The plan is intended to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 countries by expanding coverage of malaria prevention and treatment measures up to 85 percent.
"It is a joint effort of the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Health and Human Services," Deckard said.
Malaria is a blood-borne infection caused by parasites and transmitted to people by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are active from dusk to dawn, according to the PMI website. Malaria usually begins as a flu-like illness with fever and chills. Mild to moderate anemia is also common because the malaria parasite infects and destroys red blood cells. Untreated, malaria can result in severe anemia, lung and kidney failure, coma, and death.
Malaria typically occurs in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the mosquito and the malaria parasite thrive. In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of infections are caused by P. falciparum, which causes the most severe form of the disease and almost all deaths worldwide, according to the PMI website.
The bed nettings are designed specifically to combat the mosquitoes.
Based on the annual reports since the project began in 2006, examples of the impact the president's initiative has had include:
- Less than six percent of children under five having the parasites in Senegal
- A 10 percent decrease of cases in Zambia
- The mortality rate in children dropped from 168 deaths per 1,000 to 119 deaths in Rwanda
- The mortality rate dropped from 112 deaths per 1,000 live births, to 91 deaths in Tanzania.
The goal of the project is to get maximum use out of the nets, formally called PermaNet 2.0, which have a life-span of 4-5 years.
"PermaNet 2.0 has been consistent in terms of initial deltramethrin concentration and wash resistance," Malone said. "There are many years of experience in using these nets safely in Africa and in other locations. They have shown to protect against malaria, especially in children."
They are properly installing the nets in optimal locations within homes and are giving directions and other vital information to homeowners about proper use to minimize possible hazards and maximize protection, he said. The bed nets have met international standards, and have been approved by Ethiopian agencies.
"Our aid to Africa is based on the premise that Africa's future is up to Africa," Deckard said. "We're giving them the link between government and community relationships so in the future they can set these distributions up for vaccinations or anything else."
The Civil Affairs teams have local volunteers helping to properly install the netting to minimize potential fire or other hazards.
That's what it's all about, he said, linking the community to work cooperatively together.
"I would like to say thank you very much to the Civil Affairs team that is staying here in tents and working on the distribution of the nets, hanging them and knocking on everyone's door with health officials," said Mohammed Musah, vice-chairman of Hayo Oda Kebele. "With this kind of commitment we can make things happen; we can reduce the death rate of people with Malaria."
The bed netting was distributed just after National Malaria Day, April 25, contributing to the multinational partnership.
"This relationship between America and Ethiopia is very helpful to us," said one of the elders. "Please keep this relationship up."
For more information, visit www.pmi.gov.
Follow AFRICOM and its components on our social media sites: Facebook: www.facebook.com/africom Twitter: www.twitter.com/USAfricaCommand YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/USAfricaCommand Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/africom