Saturday, March 15, 2014

DR Congo: " There is no childhood's end I am your childhood friend..."

France 24 reports. ( Translated by some translation service and cleaned up by me errors are mine alone.)  I am guessing this is a collaborative effort but Charly Kasereka whose work appears often on this blog has given a Goma perspective. Charly has blogged the story on his own blog ( something I discovered after working on this ). I have used additional material from Charly's blog and have broken with my usual convention of not making comments on Charly's work.

Anti-malaria nets diverted for gardening in Goma
                                                                           A fenced garden Butembo by nets

Each year about 180,000 people die from malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, many of the beneficiaries of the campaign to distribute mosquito nets, initiated by the government, do not use the nets to prevent the spread of the malaria virus, but rather for gardening.

I am only too well aware of the malaria issues facing both Uganda and the DDR Congo having recently had family in Uganda and still having family members in Goma. Charly Kasereka blogs

" Children under 5 years and pregnant women are the main victims of this disease in several provinces of the DRC my country , that's according to statistics from the WHO / DRC."

One of our observers in Goma, eastern DRC, took these photos that show how mosquito nets, treated with anti-mosquito products are used to protect trees from insects or to create fences in gardens .

"One of our observers..."  shades of Graham Greene  " Our man in in Havana " Goma, a lot of people rely on Kasereka to get news of the Kivus out to the world.

This phenomenon is not unique to the DRC: it has been observed in many African countries where malaria is endemic, including Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. The uses are many: the nets have been used in the manufacture of fishing nets, cages for hens, or even veils for wedding dresses. The alternative uses are often the result of a lack of information about the real purpose of these nets.

A few facts about the malaria burden that Africa suffers under. The World Health Organisation (WHO ) reports.

" According to the latest estimates, released in December 2013, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 (with an uncertainty range of 135 million to 287 million) and an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000). Malaria mortality rates have fallen by 45% globally since 2000, and by 49% in the WHO African Region.

Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria. Malaria mortality rates among children in Africa have been reduced by an estimated 54% since 2000. "

                                                                  Net in a garden of Goma. Photo: Charly Kasereka.

"These people use them for gardening, while others wait to receive them"
Charly Kasereka is a reporter for a local radio station in Goma, North Kivu.

In Goma, I found that nets were used not only to cover the beds, but many other things too. They surround mango, fence home gardens, and fill the holes in the fences. We see it everywhere here, and elsewhere in the region.

It breaks my heart that malaria continues to kill because people do not properly use these nets that are distributed free. Medical centers that are part of the national program against malaria, provide education on the use of the nets. Each family receives a number of nets based on the number of people in the household. For example, for a family of five, they will receive two.

Charly on his blog gives further information from Goma.

" Several strategies have been implemented, awareness campaigns and the distribution of mosquito nets, but the disease remains. In my neighborhood there are at least ten clinics and health centers alongside a multitude of pharmacies. Everywhere we speak only of malaria. At these clinics and health centers , 99% of the patients are suffering from malaria."

But some unscrupulous people registering for mosquito nets exaggerate the number of people in their family, others go to different distribution points to receive more. A guy in my neighborhood has even boasted of three nets for himself.These people use them for gardening, while others are still waiting to receive one!

                                   A mosquito net to protect fruit trees from birds and insects. Photo: Charly Kasereka.

The tragedy is that this is a preventable and curable disease.

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