Rotarians from France, Côte d'Ivoire distribute bed nets to fight malaria
A child carries two insecticide-treated bed nets during an antimalaria Matching Grant project in Cote d'Ivoire. Photo courtesy of John Kedzierski
Thousands of mothers in western Côte d'Ivoire rushed out of their homes to receive insecticide-treated bed nets during an 11-day antimalaria campaign initiated by French Rotarians near the town of Man in November.
The effort was part of a €56,300 (US$79,500) Rotary Foundation Matching Grant project sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Garches-Marnes-Vaucresson, Hauts-de-Seine, France, and San Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire.
John Kedzierski, project coordinator and a member of the Garches-Marnes-Vaucresson club, joined Adriana Rossetto Di Salvatore of the Rotary Club of Versailles, Yvelines, France, and eight other volunteers in distributing 17,600 nets, which were treated to repel the mosquitoes that carry the parasitic disease. The project benefited more than 50,000 people.
"This region has been battered and torn by civil war and recent election violence. The health needs of the population are tremendous," says Kedzierski, noting the country's one-in-five mortality rate for children under age five. "Half of that is due to malaria. It's endemic in this region."
The volunteers drove through 38 villages, announcing the availability of free nets over a loud speaker, and provided them to pregnant women and mothers of children under five.
"Once we showed up, women ran out of their huts and through fields to get their mosquito nets. They were tremendously excited and grateful," says Kedzierski.
Club members also distributed nets to a pediatric ward, orphanage, and elementary boarding school.
The group partnered with Handicap Sans Frontières, a nongovernmental organization that aims to address medical needs and provide employment opportunities to teenagers with disabilities in Côte d'Ivoire. The organization, well-known locally, provided free transport of the nets by helicopter. Members of the Rotary clubs of Daloa Centre-Ouest, Côte d'Ivoire, and Versailles, Yvelines, France, were part of the distribution team.
Because malaria is often misunderstood, says Kedzierski, "we also wanted to take advantage of the women’s enthusiasm by educating them on malaria prevention." Club members hired a nurse, who taught the women how to use the nets.
In the months after the project, the nurse made follow-up visits to homes in each of the villages. The survey revealed that 341 out of 350 homes were properly using and maintaining the nets.
The project supported Rotary's disease prevention and treatment area of focus.
"The rate at which children in Africa are dying because of malaria is unacceptable," says Kedzierski. "Rotary is the right organization to focus on the solutions."
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