Impassable road can’t stop malaria fighters
P hysician Michael W. Felz spent several years with his wife and children in Papua New Guinea as a medical missionary in the late 1980s.
“Malaria was rampant, and severe disease was not unusual,” recalls Felz, a member of the Rotary Club of Augusta-West, Georgia, USA.
Since 1997, Rotarians Against Malaria in Papua New Guinea (RAM-PNG) has been responsible for the nationwide program to distribute long-lasting insecticidal nets. In addition to providing a physical barrier, the nets thwart malaria by poisoning mosquitoes, which are killed on contact by the insecticide embedded in the fibers.
In May, working with RAM-PNG and with financial support from his club, Felz and a local friend, Andrew Pine, delivered 900 nets to the village of Mamuane in an epic journey that almost ended when a rocky, rutted mountain road became impassable.
“We were fully stuck – in the middle of nowhere, in the dark and chilly downpour, with 100-pound bales of nets that no man could carry on foot to Mamuane in that slick, sticky mud,” Felz says.
Pine sent word to his friend Luke Wembi, principal of the nearby Tunda Primary School, and soon after daybreak, a chattering company of 80 barefoot students arrived. Each child shouldered several individual nets wrapped in plastic.
“And off they went, carrying lifesaving mosquito nets up the slopes, over the ridges, between the tall weeds, down the valleys, and through the mud, on the two-hour trek to Mamuane.” In December, Pine reported back about the village: “We don’t have malaria anymore.”
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2.3 Millions of mosquito nets RAM-PNG has delivered in Papua New Guinea
2/3 Proportion of villages in Papua New Guinea that have received mosquito nets
1,300 Per capita gross national income, in U.S. dollars; most people are subsistence farmers
830Approximate number of indigenous languages spoken on the country’s 600 islands