Something Plus Nets

Staff Writers | 17 Jun 2008

The New York Times recently noted the trend of donating money towards anti-malaria mosquito nets. Such nets are an important tool in fighting malaria, and have received attention from the likes of the NBA, American Idol, and ESPN (formerly Sports Illustrated) columnist Rick Reilly. The Times piece, however, prompted a letter from Richard Tren, Director of Africa Fighting Malaria, pointing out that "malaria control is more than just nets."

So what is malaria control? And what impact does the focus on nets have on fighting the disease? Gelf contacted Tren, who responded:

"The impact is that the overwhelming focus on nets from public and private programs doesn't build comprehensive control programs. We really worry that what is being built in many African countries are commodity-distribution programs and not-disease control programs... .Comprehensive malaria-control programs include indoor spraying, larvaciding where applicable, and supporting better diagnosis and treatment."

Asked if the focus on nets is harmful to overall malaria-control efforts, Tren said no, though he did note that some groups are averse to spraying programs (Nothing But Nets, which was mentioned in the Times piece, is not among them, despite its name), and that it can be difficult to compete with nets because their benefits are easy for people to understand. He added that such initiatives are "beneficial for malaria control—but just as long as we remember that they are only supporting one element of it."

If you want to give some money to the cause—netless division—Tren suggests March of Washingtons. Or, if you're uncomfortable giving to an organization associated with Hedge Funds vs. anything, there's always Medecins Sans Frontieres.