Good things come in small packages

Although the MosquitoNet Project is small, for eight years we’ve been operating as volunteers with zero spent on overhead. We have managed to raise over $100,000 which translates into about 12,500 nets. Assuming that three or four people sleep under one family size net, this is equivalent to protection for at least 30,000 individuals.

Portrait

A young mother carries a baby and a mosquito net package on her head.

The old expression “Good things come in small packages” could well be said about the Angola MosquitoNet Project. Firstly, the mosquito nets themselves are good things distributed in nice compact blue packages and secondly is the fact that compared to ambitious Africa-wide anti-malaria programs such as those sponsored by the United Nations, our initiative is tiny but good. Good because we catch the groups that fall in the cracks. These are groups or organizations headed by responsible people whom we know personally who are working in the hinterland of Angola as well as the ghettos inside the sprawling capital of Luanda but don’t qualify for or don’t have the logistical back-up or time to apply for mosquito nets from the big agencies.

Take for example Joan Woodyer, a British registered nurse working in the province of Zaire. Joan works in a clinic run by the Baptist Church in the province’s capital city, M’banza Conga. When she heard of the MosquitoNet Project she contacted us. We gave her church in Luanda 400 nets which they promptly shipped up to Joan.

Receiving nets is the easy part. Distributing nets however is a complicated and sometimes even political process. Everybody wants a mosquito net and when one village or neighborhood hears that their neighbors received nets, they want to receive the same gift. Joan said in her report to us, “We’ve finally got everything in place for distributing 200 nets in Sumpi. We met with the sobas (traditional rulers) from the town yesterday to make the final arrangements. We’re trying to make sure that every bairro (neighborhood) gets a fair distribution. We’ve arranged 5 dates in July when we’ll be giving out the nets – we’re planning to do two bairros each time. We will be targeting families with children under five and pregnant women.”

Mr. Kuki

Mr. Kuku of the Baptist Church in Zaire Province distributes nets in the town of Sumpi.

Once the distribution area has been designated and approved, the next step is to educate the recipients. Even though families love to receive a net, it is important that they actually use the nets. Everybody in Angola knows malaria and knows people who died because of malaria but not everyone realizes or is convinced of the prevention afforded by a mosquito net. In her report, Joan outlined that her team would do a presentation “on malaria and on using the nets to prevent malaria, before we actually give out the nets.”

The final and biggest hurdle, is translating knowledge into action – that is getting recipients to actually hang up the net. Usually part of the presentation about malaria and the use of nets includes a demonstration on how easy it is to hang a net. Each mosquito net package includes all the necessary strings and hooks. Joan’s team went a step further. She said, “We’ve asked each bairro in Sumpi to appoint two or three men who can help people hang the nets. We’ve said that we will be checking some houses to make sure that the nets are being used!”

The MosquitoNet Project managed to communicate with Joan by email (most of the main provincial centres are now getting internet access) and in our last email we asked her if she needed more mosquito nets. She replied, “Well, we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface. There are so many remote villages up here that could benefit. We visited one yesterday called Ndobo, right up on the border and was an hours drive off the main road down a small dirt track. The distance was only 20 kilometers but it took us an hour because the road was in such a poor condition. The village is in the middle of nowhere, it’s certainly the remotest place I’ve been to. We are going to give them the last 100 nets. If there’s any chance of having another 400 next time you have some to give out, we would gladly receive them.”

Our project’s goal is to raise enough funds to purchase 3,300 nets by the end of 2008. We definitely plan to have 400 small but good packages of nets to give to Joan for the villages in Zaire province.

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