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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mosquito Nets

Malaria is something we don't often think about in the developed world, however, here in West Africa (we're in Sierra Leone this year) malaria is as frequent as a common cold. You don't ask someone feeling bad if they have a cold, you ask do they have malaria! I'm looking forward to giving mosquito nets to some of the partner organizations that we serve alongside! It's rainy season here and the need is great as the mosquitoes spread malaria to our day workers (local volunteers with Mercy Ships), their family members, and even to our crew.

One of our partners is Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order) and they hold a medical clinic twice a week. Many children under 5 and their caregivers (usually their mother) are admitted to the mission for malaria. The sisters ensure the medicine is given properly and IVs are used, if necessary. Sister Josianne is a trained nurse and she holds the clinic. A local doctor comes to the mission once a week (more if needed) to check on the patients. They care mainly for malaria, TB and HIV patients. We visit the patients there on Wednesday mornings and sing, play games, do simple crafts and sit to talk with them.

Recently, an article was written about a donation from a church in England given to Mercy Ships for delivering mosquito nets to the people we serve here in Freetown, Sierra Leone:

In West Africa, over 3,000 children die of malaria every day; 1 out of every 5 childhood deaths is due to malaria.2 Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds in West Africa. 2 The disease can cause anemia and jaundice and, if not promptly treated, can cause coma, kidney failure, or death.

To make matters worse, the West African rainy season that begins in June will cause flooding that will aggravate the problem, since standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry the disease according to Robert Agyarko, UN Childrens Fund Specialist on Malaria for West Africa. In Freetown, Sierra Leone, it is estimated that between 60% and 70% of mosquitoes are malaria carriers.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that malaria can be controlled, and even prevented, using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, or mosquito nets in sleeping areas. UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, reports, Mosquito nets are still the most effective tool for preventing malaria in West Africa.

Mosquito nets are infused with Permethrin, a long-lasting insecticide that acts as a barrier to prevent mosquitoes from penetrating the nets. It drives away the mosquitoes and kills the ones that land. Unfortunately, only 40% of households in Sierra Leone have an insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN). 2

Deck Hand Steve Sesay receives the shipment of mosquito nets onboard the Africa Mercy in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

St. Marys Church in Olveston, Bristol, United Kingdom, is taking a stand against this deadly killer. They have donated 5,000 to Mercy Ships for the distribution of mosquito nets at the HOPE Center in Freetown. This land-based facility houses patients who are awaiting surgery and those recovering from surgery onboard the hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.

Day-workers Patricia Kamara and Fatmata Parker install mosquito nets at the HOPE Center.

When the patients are discharged from the HOPE Center, they will each be given a mosquito net and told how to use it properly.

They will also receive additional information on how to prevent malaria. This promising strategy will make a difference in fighting this deadly disease.

1 WHO 2003 Africa Malaria Report
2 WHO 2010 Africa Malaria Report

Patients are enthusiastic about showing off the new mosquito nets at the HOPE Center.

Story by Elaine B. Winn
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Debra Bell

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