Spirited anti-malaria drive set in motion
By Robert Ochieng
Standard Chartered Bank has launched `Nets for Life` initiative, an initiative for tackling malaria in Africa through distributing over a million insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets.
The distribution of the nets is being complimented by a parallel educational programme, which is intended to raise awareness on the long term sustainable use of the net.
Malaria accounts for staggering proportions of child mortality in Tanzania despite huge efforts made to contain the number one killer disease, the chief executive officer of the bank in Tanzania, Jeremy Awori, has said.
Addressing participants during the commemoration of World Malaria Day last week at Kilomo village in Bagamoyo District, Coast Region, Awori said the disease kills over two million people in Africa every year, with the largest casualties being pregnant women and children under the age of five.
``Every 30 seconds, an African child dies of malaria. Since I have been speaking, four children will have died needlessly of malaria,`` he told the gathering audience who brazed the Saturday drizzle to attend the event.
The death rate from malaria in Africa, Awori intoned, is a staggering 90 percent of all malaria-related deaths worldwide, a fact corroborated by the World Health Organisation, with experts predicting an annual 20 percent increase in malaria-related illnesses and deaths over the next few years.
According to the Bank`s CEO, managing the problem, costs Africa in excess of $12 billion annually, a further blow to the countries` GDPs, and Tanzania is not immune to this economic loss.
``The bank is committed to fight malaria in Africa because it is not only a killer, but also slows the very economies we are helping to develop.
As bankers, we know the real cost of malaria to regional GDP, the cost to local economies and to families,`` he stated.
Since there is no vaccine in place, and none is expected in the foreseeable future, hope seems to lie in curative as well as preventive measures, with heavy emphasis directed to the latter.
The project was first launched in Zambia in 2006 and then rolled out in 15 African countries, including Tanzania a year later.
Nets for Life`s target, according to the Bank`s Chief, is to raise $50 million in order to purchase a further five million nets to be distributed over the next five years, with the bank having committed $5 million towards this venture.
The Kilomo event capped the distribution exercise of over 50,000 insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets, which started the previous Wednesday at Amana, Mwananyamala, and Temeke hospitals in Dar es Salaam`s Ilala, Kinondoni and Temeke districts, respectively.
``And our primary focus is on the most vulnerable people: children under five, pregnant women, the chronically ill and the elderly,`` Awori announced.
The attendees at the event, mostly women and children from the village, were entertained by Msimamo Sanaa Group.
The performing artistes, mostly boys and girls in their teens, including eight-year-old Halima Mali, thrilled the audience with their gyrating, waist shaking and energetic moves to traditional drum beats.
Visibly impressed by the performance, Community Development, Gender and Children Minister Margaret Sitta, who was the chief guest, stepped forward to hand out cash to one of the dancing teenagers, before jigging her way back to the podium.
Sitta later commended initiatives undertaken to minimise the rate of malaria infections and called on organisations to supplement the Government`s efforts to curb and eventually rid off the country the endemic disease, which she said was containable if appropriate measures were taken.
``This day is here to remind us of the intolerable burden and the task ahead of us in addressing the malaria challenge.
It`s not that we are defeated by it, but we can reduce it to a manageable level without letting it strain us any more,`` she declared.
The minister further emphasised the need for people to prevent more infections by keeping their environment clean, by cutting long grass and bushy vegetations, and draining stagnant water around their homes as well as ensuring that they always sleep under insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets.