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Efforts to Roll Back Malaria Intensify (As Distribution of Over 1 Million Bed-Nets Begins )

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The exercise spearheaded by the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) in partnership with Government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with funding from Global Fund will cover the length and breadth of The Gambia.

The aim of the exercise is to sustain gains made in malaria control and prevention as well scale up intervention in reducing the malaria burden.

The entire country is expected to benefit from the distribution exercise, according to CRS officials monitoring the exercise.

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Speaking to journalists in Basse, Mr Saiku Janneh, behavior change communication manager at the CRS Banjul Office, said the bed-net distribution is done two-fold – routine distribution through reproductive and child health clinics, and mass distribution through nationwide campaigns – every three years.

According to him, universal access to LLINs is a key component of a comprehensive strategy called “Integrated Vector Management Strategy”, adding that the initial process of the campaign was the registration of members of each household. 

“This electronic form of registration was the first of its kind in The Gambia as data are collected through specially designed iPads. During registration vouchers are issued to every member of a household and to any odd member left after dividing the total number of resident household members by 2.

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“Pregnant women and children under the age of one year will also be given vouchers if they have not already been given a net at health facility level. New nets must be aired for 24 hours before they are used, adding that such airing should be done under a shade because direct exposure of nets to sunlight ‘compromises’ the efficacy of the insecticide.” 

Failure to air a new net for 24 hours could induce reactions in some people, he advised, noting that although it is usually mild, the discomfort could deter some people from sleeping under the nets. 

He added: “Burning sensation on the face and skin rashes have been reported among people who slept under a treated net, without initially airing it for 24 hours. The net should never be washed with soda, bleach or other strong detergents. Ordinary soap usually referred to as Sankung Sillah soap is adequate.”

Mr Baba Balajo, programme manager at CRS, said the overarching goal of the project was to reduce malaria-related morbidity and mortality of the entire population in five health regions to reach pre-elimination stage by March 2015. 

“The objective of the ITN component,” Mr Balajo added, “was to contribute to the rapid scale-up to universal coverage of the population at risk of malaria in 2012, through 100% coverage, sustaining this through 2015 and the behaviour change communication (BCC) component.” 

“The programme had four objectives, which are to increase the proportion of confirmed malaria cases and provide the most efficacious treatment in the targeted five health regions among the population at risk from 27% to 80% by 2015; to contribute to the rapid scale-up of the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets to the entire population by 2015; to protect all populations in the three health regions (LRR, CRR and URR) from malaria through indoor residual spraying of 80% of households by 2015; and to increase to 80% the proportion of the population in five health regions who take appropriate action to prevent and treat malaria (2 doses of IPTp, consistently sleep under a treated mosquito net, timely health seeking, and acceptance of IRS) through Behavioural Change Communication (BCC) by 2015.”

This objective, he added, “will be achieved through routine distribution of LLINs in health facilities across the country, thus complemented by mass LLINs distribution campaign targeting the general population. LLINs distribution is in phases: In Round 9, Phase 1 (2010 to 2012) 1,290,688 LLINs were distributed countrywide and in Round 9, Phase 2 (2013) 207,142 LLINs were distributed countrywide. In Phase 2 of the project (January 2013 to December 2015), approximately 329,497 LLINs will be distributed to pregnant women and children under one year on routine basis through RCH clinics;  1,000,000 LLINs will be distributed through a mass LLINs campaign between May and June of 2014 through routine distribution through RCH clinics.”

Alieu Bah, project officer, Global Fund Malaria Project – CRS  said: “Upon completion of registration, nets would be given to those who present their vouchers to the distributors and such vouchers would be marked with indelible ink, so they could not be presented to another distributor for a net and this process takes place in public places, such as bantabas.”

His added: “By the end of the campaign, over one million long-lasting insecticide treated nets would be distributed across the country between May and June 2014, the campaign is in phases: Phase 1 URR, Phase 2 CRR, Phase 3 LRR and NBR, and Phase 4 WCR, KMC and BCC.”

He said correct and consistent use of LLINs is the only way to defeat malaria.

“Every two years we conduct behaviour change communication surveys looking at primary areas including the usage of LLINs and over the years we had got indicators from all the surveys that had been conducted by CRS and its partners that the intervention had greatly impacted on the lives of beneficiaries, showing that malaria had drastically reduced but we don’t need to be complacent; rather, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure the primary objective is achieved – reaching pre-elimination stage of malaria by 2015,” he said.

He further told journalists that they were on track to achieve the objective. “In most communities, we have kabilos, representatives and positive defending individuals who visit households and promote the use of bed-nets, IRS and early treatment behaviour if someone catches fever.” 

Amadou Drammeh, the supervisor at Gambisara, said the people of the area have been   responding positively and that the registration process was encouraging.

The alkalo of Dembading in Fulladu East, Bambey Sabally, commended CRS, the Government of The Gambia and Global Fund for the free distribution of LLTNs to communities. “The nets will be properly used in my village,” he promised.

Maimuna Sagnia, the district supervisor for Kantora said the teams in her catchment area were working hard to ensure that all the areas given to them were covered at the right time.

The alkalo of Koina, Suruhata Bajara Gumaneh, said: “The distribution of these bed-nets will reduce the prevalence of malaria cases in our communities. We know the importance of sleeping under mosquito nets.” He also joined others in commending CRS and government for the bold move to eradicate malaria in The Gambia.


By Sainey Marenah


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