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Liberians to receive 2.7m treated bed nets

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To help in malaria prevention and other infectious diseases in the country, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health in partnership with Plan Liberia International and other partners launches a nationwide campaign to begin distribution of Insecticide Treated Nets or (ITNs ) to citizens across all 15 counties.

Making remarks at the formal launch Tuesday, June 15, 2021 in Paynesville outside Monrovia, Liberia’s Minister of Health Dr. Whilhelmina Jallah expressed delight for the mass distribution campaign, which brings to three, the number of such exercise this year.

“Today marks another historic day as we launch our third comprehensive mass campaign, the first was one was done in 2015, second 2018, and now here were we are, but in spite of all that we are going through from 2018 to now, we still can’t forget that malaria is one of those things that can take our lives”, says the Minister.

The mass distribution campaign was launched under the theme: Sleep under the Nets Everywhere, and Every Night.” She says children, pregnant women, and adults generally are vulnerable to malaria, so focus should not be on COVID-19 only and forget the other diseases that have propensity to cause more damage than COVID.

According to her, the team will distribute 2.7 million nets, adding that the country population is around 4.5 million people, adding that she has no doubt that every household will receive the nets. However, the Minister encourages citizens to use to nets for the intended purpose rather than putting them on sale.

At the same time, United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy stresses, “It is important that we use all of the tools at our disposal, including bed nets, to fight this widespread disease. The disease remains one of the most severe public health crises Liberia faces.”

Ambassador Michael explains that over a million malaria cases are confirmed in Liberia every year, making the disease the leading cause of morbidity and mortality for Liberians. He notes that at health facilities, malaria accounts for a third (34%) of outpatient attendance and a third (34 %) of deaths, among children under age five.

The U.S. Envoy continues that malaria affects more than just the health of individual Liberians, adding that it imposes substantial socio-economic costs on families, communities and the national government, including costs of purchasing drugs; expenses for travel to and from clinics or dispensaries; lost days at work; absence from school; and burial and related expenses in case of death. “We can do better.”

Ambassador McCarthy emphasizes further that ending malaria would generate positive results across the board thru increased school attendance, enhanced worker productivity, and significantly reduced costs for treatment and drugs. He says it is for all of these reasons that malaria prevention and control remain a major U.S. foreign assistance objective aligned with its vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths as well as ending extreme poverty.

“And that is why, thanks to support from the President’s Malaria Initiative, we have made the distribution of bed nets, diagnostic test kits, and lifesaving drugs a key part of our malaria prevention and control efforts in Liberia.

Liberia has the potential to reduce the burden of malaria. Other countries in Africa are moving towards malaria elimination. Liberia can do so as well by mobilizing the private sector and domestic resources towards malaria control.”

The Ambassador underscores that enhanced efficiency in the health sector and increased access to health services are the keys to successfully tackling the spread of malaria.

He says the United States is strongly committed to working with Liberia and partners to free Liberians from the burden of malaria, adding “We have seen the progress made in delivering quality health services to Liberia’s citizens, I am convinced that with the sustained focus of a Liberian-led effort fully supported by the Government of Liberia, malaria will one day cease to be a common threat to all Liberians.”

Also speaking, the County Director for Plan Liberia, Madam Miriam Murray notes that almost two-thirds of human has been infected with malaria, and are currently living in sub-Saharan Africa which also bears around 90 percent of the global malaria death too.

“This 2021 campaign event is so important to us in Plan International, because Liberia is one of the few countries in the world with the opportunity to distribute the new generation nets across the country”.

According to her, though the campaign preparation has been very challenging due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they are determined to distribute 2.7 million Insecticide Treated Bed Nets across the 15 counties, beginning June 15-25 for Montserrado county, and continue to rest of the 14 counties.

The Plan International County Director says the aim of the mass distribution campaign led by her institution in partnership with the Ministry of Health is to contribute to reduction of malaria burden, including diseases and death by increasing people access to and enhance utilization in households across the country.

Madam Murray informs citizens the proper use of the Insecticide Treated Nets or (INTs) is one of the most effective ways of preventing malaria, noting that it can reduce the number of uncomplicated malaria episodes, cases by half (50%) in areas of high malaria transmission such as Liberia and has even bigger impact in areas of medium or lower transmission as in the southern Africa.

Meanwhile, the Plan Liberia International Country Director explains that ITNs are nets treated with insecticide during the manufacturing process, so they do not require re-treatment and remain visible for a period of about three years.

By Lewis S. Teh–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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