Defying the scorching sun, Barakaali Ali, a young twenty year-old mother, waits eagerly for her turn to collect the Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets (LLIN) at her local distribution point in North Central Nigeria’s state of Nassarawa.
“My son, Shuaibu has had malaria three times since he was born,” says Barakaali of her 10 month old baby. “The last attack almost killed him.”
Days before, the town crier had announced the upcoming bednet distribution. On her way to the village stream that same day, Barakaali and her friends were accosted by men and women who were malaria campaign mobilizers, teaching villagers how to use a bednet to protect their families from mosquito bites and malaria.
Barakaali gladly accepted the bednet vouchers, looking carefully at the collection date indicated at the back. The mobilizers explained the vouchers would enable her to collect two nets free-of charge. She was told the nets needed to be aired in the shade for 24 hours before use.
On the day of the distribution, a multitude of mothers have showed up to collect their respective bednets. A total of 864,019 mosquito nets are to be handed out during the UNICEF-supported distribution. UNICEF has been orchestrating the deployment of the nets to all the designated local government points and the subsequent distribution to all households throughout the State.
On her way back from the distribution to her home near the cattle market, Barakaali must walk past open sewages from the nearby abattoir, an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The young mother explains that after her baby almost died of malaria, she bought a small bednet from the market. “But still mosquitoes continued to bite him, unlike this one (displaying her newly collected LLIN) that has mosquito repellent harmless to people. So, after 24 hours, I will fix one over my children’s bed and another over my own bed.”
Barakaali is also the mother of three year-old Hadiza. During her pregnancies, protecting herself from constant mosquito bites was a challenge. She says she always took paracetamol and chloroquine, often prescribed by local chemists to treat malaria incidences.
Soon after the distribution, the campaign mobilizers visit Barakaali’s house. She has the nets airing in a shady area. Later, she ties the strings at the edges of the nets to the nails fixed on the walls by her husband, Ali.
After their first night under the mosquito net, the young mother recounts how she rolled down the nets at dusk to cover the beds. “I’m so happy, my children slept peacefully throughout the night, there were no traces of any mosquito buzz”.
Malaria is one of the oldest and most frequently occurring infectious diseases in humans. In Africa, Nigeria remains one of the most malaria affected countries with an estimated 156 million cases of annually.
No child should die from malaria, but still many do.
There are interventions to control malaria that are simple and effective….We know that long-lasting insecticide nets distributed eqitably throughout these African countries can protect sleeping children from deadly mosquito bites. We know that the availability of rapid diagnostic testing in rural Africa can quickly detect the presence of malaria parasistes in human blood. And, when the test result is positive, we know that a three day course of highly effective drugs known as ACTs can save lives.
UNICEF is asking donors to wake up to the challenge to make evey relevant and necessary effort to eradicate malaria through prevention and cure. Now through 2012, the UNICEF Malaria Initiative will need to raise over $23.5 million dollars to purchase nets, diagnositc testing, and medications to fight malaria, one of the world’s deadliest killers.
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