Canadian Rotarians leading the charge against malaria
A child in Kawempi, Uganda, holds a mosquito net distributed as part of a project between the Rotary clubs of Cataraqui-Kingston and Kololo-Kampala, in collaboration with Buy-A-Net. Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Kololo-Kampala
Canadian Rotarians have been at the forefront of efforts to prevent malaria deaths in Africa.
Rotary clubs have partnered with the Buy-A-Net Malaria Prevention Group, a Canadian charitable organization founded in 2004 to combat the disease in Uganda, one village at a time.
The Rotary clubs of Cataraqui-Kingston, Ontario, and Kololo-Kampala, Uganda, teamed up with Buy-A-Net last year on a US$47,000 malaria prevention project in Kampala. Rotarians contributed club donations and District Designated Fund allocations, and Buy-A-Net served as the implementing partner.
The Buy-A-Net staff in Uganda works with local health agencies and community partners to train volunteers to distribute mosquito nets, detect and treat malaria, and educate villagers on malaria prevention.
"It is hard for Rotarians to get to places where the work needs to be done," says William Gray, a member of the Cataraqui-Kingston club and governor-elect of District 7040 (parts of Ontario, Nunavut, and Québec, Canada; part of New York, USA). "We are good at raising funds, leveraging that through The Rotary Foundation, and advocating for the cause. Buy-A-Net has boots on the ground and is very passionate and very engaged."
Debra Lefebvre, a registered nurse and founder of Buy-A-Net, says the partnership has worked well because it uses volunteers at the local level to get the job done.
"In previous efforts, Rotarians were expected to do it all, but for many reasons that is very difficult," Lefebvre says. "Rotarians can be busy people. We let Rotarians get involved as little or as much as they want."
At the convention
The Cataraqui-Kingston and Kololo-Kampala clubs hosted a booth with Buy-A-Net at the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, in June, to scale up their efforts by getting more clubs involved. Gray also served as a moderator for a breakout session on malaria prevention with panelists from the Canadian Parliamentary Malaria Caucus and the Canadian Red Cross, and an official from the Ugandan Ministry of Health. Experts from Rotarians Against Malaria, a Rotary Australia World Community Service activity, and Rotarians Eliminating Malaria: A Rotarian Action Group attended the session.
Drake Zimmerman, vice chair of Rotarians Eliminating Malaria, says both groups are part of the Alliance for Malaria Prevention, a collaboration of more than 30 government and nongovernmental organizations, including Buy-A-Net, working to provide tens of millions of insecticidal nets to villages throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in cooperation with local governments and health agencies.
The effort targets districts in an attempt to provide nets for every child under age five and pregnant women, to interrupt the transmission of malaria parasites, which are spread by mosquitoes. It is a model, Zimmerman says, that has been tested by Rotarians and proved effective.
He says partnerships between Rotary clubs and nongovernmental organizations play a valuable role in the effort. "Buy-A-Net does marvelous work and gets Rotarians involved."
Gray says the booth at the convention was inspirational. "Buy-A-Net had people in the booth the whole time. We had Rotarians from Uganda and my district working side by side and getting to know one another. There was lots of enthusiasm from everyone."
Lefebvre says Buy-A-Net has received hundreds of inquiries from Rotary clubs to collaborate on efforts to "net a village."
"The need to eliminate malaria is staggering," she says. "We welcome more partnerships with Rotarians. Ugandan Rotary clubs are ready and willing to facilitate."
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