The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching two "Keep Up" programmes after distributing hundreds of thousands of long-lasting insecticidal nets in Sierra Leone and Kenya.
A "Keep Up" programme is a three-year community-based effort that involves Red Cross volunteers going house-to-house after a mosquito net distribution to make sure that families are hanging and using the nets properly to prevent malaria infection through mosquito bites.
First pioneered in Togo and Mozambique, the programme has proven to be an important part of the global effort to fight malaria by increasing the coverage of mosquito nets among high risk groups.
"Keep Up programmes are a good example of how unique and efficient the Red Cross and Red Crescent approach is in the fight against malaria," says Marianne Monclair, Senior Health Officer at the International Federation Secretariat.
"The combination of massive mosquito net distribution and follow-up programmes to make sure that the nets are properly used can save millions of lives and contribute to the Millenium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015," she adds.
From 22 to 26 November, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, with support from more than 4,000 Sierra Leone Red Cross volunteers, Canadian Red Cross, and other partners, completed the distribution of 875,000 mosquito nets at over 900 distribution points throughout the country.
These nets will provide protection from malaria for children under five and pregnant women. It is estimated that the nets can save the lives of more than 5,000 children in the first year alone.
The Sierra Leone Red Cross, with support from the International Federation, will launch its "Keep Up" programme in December.
For its part, the Kenya Red Cross Society launched its "Keep Up" programme on 22 November, with support from the International Federation, Norwegian Red Cross, the Ministry of Health and other partners. Kenya Red Cross volunteers will promote the proper hanging and use of nets in 24 malaria-prone districts countrywide, after 3.4 million mosquito nets were distributed targeting children under five. In addition, volunteers will give health advice, including the need for routine immunizations against other diseases like measles.
There are about 300 to 500 million cases of malaria each year worldwide with nearly 90 per cent occurring in Africa. This preventable and treatable disease is the leading killer of African children, killing one child every 30 seconds. Life-saving mosquito nets are a proven and cost-effective way to prevent malaria.
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