bed nets

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Taking a closer look at whether anti-malaria programs really work | 

Malaria and the mosquitoes that carry it met a formidable foe in the form of nets laced with deadly pesticides a decade ago. Hanging a net above the bed so that it drapes around the people inside provided protection from mosquito bites while not making it hotter in tropical locations nor harming the people that use them.

Programs flourished that distributed and/or sold the bed nets. People used them and progress towards ending malaria seemed on track.

Ten years later malaria is still around and the mosquitoes are showing signs of resistance to the insecticide used in the bed nets. Journalist Amy Costello, host of the podcast Tiny Spark, recently traveled to Malawi to see what was actually happening in the fight against malaria. She sees mosquitoes that are surviving the only pesticide used in bed nets to kill them and families using bed nets with giant holes.

The story was carried by Public Radio International’s The World earlier this week. It’s the first in a series of stories called Tracking Charity. Like she does with the malaria piece, Amy will travel around the world to see if aid projects are delivering on their promises.

“To my mind, the most important barometer of aid effectiveness is how it impacts the people it is trying to help. That is why I will put the recipients of aid at the forefront of every story I report,” explains Costello in introducing the series.

“I am interested in knowing if programs work for them. I want to find out what happens to people who live at the end of dirt roads when charitable projects don’t pan out as promised.”

In this week’s podcast, I spoke with with Amy about the project (our producer re-recorded my questions to improve audio quality). We discuss her previous investigations into TOMS shoes and medical volunteers following the Haitian earthquake. Costello explains why she is driven to take a tougher look at the business of doing good and the resistance she receives from people in and out of the charity sector.

And don’t miss a podcast! Subscribe on iTunes.

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What Happens when you Combine Dr Seuss and Malaria? | 

Today is the anniversary of the day the Dr Ronald Ross’s discovery that malaria was spread by female mosquitoes. Various sites marked the day with blog posts and pictures, but this find from the NPR Shots Blog, who in turn was tipped by the Contagions blog, is much more fun.

Shots tells the story of the pamphlet:

Dr. Seuss was a captain in the U.S. Army. And during World War II, the author and illustrator, whose given name was Theodor Geisel, spent a few years creating training films and pamphlets for the troops.

One of Geisel’s Army cartoons was a booklet aimed at preventing malaria outbreaks among GIs by urging them to use nets and keep covered up.

In 1943, Germany blocked the Allies’ supply of the anti-malaria drug quinine. So Geisel created a booklet explaining to the troops how to avoid harmful encounters with “blood-thirsty Ann,” the character he created to represent Anopheles, the genus of the mosquitoes that transmit the disease

Newsmap side 2 Monday, November 8, 1943 Credit: US Navy Dept Library

Notice that there were cases of malaria in the United States during World War II. A lot has changed since then in the US, but the map has not changed much for sub-Saharan Africa. The basic advice to use sleeping nets was pushed as hard 70 years ago as it is today. Continue reading

Prevented Malaria Deaths Made Visible | 

Voice of America

Nets distribution in Niger

One of the problems with saving lives is it’s hard to identify a death averted. Success in disease prevention is often invisible.

You typically can’t say, for example, that 380 cases of malaria, and one death, were prevented in African children for every $1,025 spent on insecticide-treated bed nets last year.

Except now you can.

A new report published by Roll Back Malaria has applied a sophisticated new analytical method known as the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) to measure the number of lives saved over the last few years by anti-malaria efforts in Africa. Continue reading

Study: Foreign Aid for Anti-Malaria Bed Nets Works | 

Mosquito net

Flickr, by Prezius

Mosquito net

Insecticide-treated mosquito nets can prevent malaria infection, no question.

Getting people to use them as intended is another thing. Reports of people in African communities using them to catch fish, make fences or for other creative purposes has prompted some to claim bed net distribution is not effective for fighting malaria and is misguided if not counterproductive.

Others contended the nets should be sold, rather than donated, so recipients value them.

A new study by the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has found that African countries who have received major support for bed net distribution are using them as intended and many more children are being protected from malaria.

Bottom line, said IHME director Dr. Chris Murray: “More money means more children sleeping under bed nets.”