Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is, however, preventable and curable. According to the latest world malaria report (2020), there were 229 million cases of malaria in 2019 compared to 228 million cases in 2018 and the estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 409 000.
In Kenya, malaria remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality with more than 70 percent of the population at risk of the disease. There are an estimated 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year. According to the Kenya Malaria Indicator Survey 2015, fifty-six percent of children under age 5 slept under an Insecticidal Treated Mosquito Nets ( LLIN) the night before the survey.
Malaria has continued to be a great challenge. Continuous monitoring of this killer disease has shown that approximately 200 children and youth are treated for malaria and 1 child dies due to malaria each month.
Prevention of malaria is key. Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control, one of the strategies being insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Though there have been efforts in Kenya to distribute mosquito nets, the current ITN ownership of 0.8 nets per household in Kenya is still far from universal access (defined as 2 nets per household); according to the Kenya National Malaria Strategy (2009-2017).
Compassion International Kenya has been supporting malaria prevention through education and donation of appropriate malaria treatment to families. Recently, the organization supported 84 Frontline Church Partners (FCPs) to distribute Insecticidal Treated Mosquito Nets (LLINs). A total of 33,921 mosquito nets were distributed to FCPs in Baringo, Homabay, Kilifi-Ganze, Laikipia, Marsabit, Migori and Taita-Taveta clusters. Each of the children and youth received 2 mosquito nets each. The campaign also saw the caregivers of the children and youth receive comprehensive education on malaria prevention.
The FCP that were selected were new and/or with young children who are most at risk. These regions are in endemic and seasonal transmission malaria zones; which carry the heaviest burden of malaria in the country. Baringo cluster for instance, where 7,064 nets were distributed was also hit by flooding and is home to other vector borne illnesses like yellow fever, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes. There has been displacement of people in this cluster due to fights and some of the children from such families also benefited.
This initiative, therefore, is going a long way into safeguarding the lives of children mainly from malaria but also from other illnesses transmitted by the mosquito. The comfort that comes with uninterrupted sleep from the bites of mosquitoes is assured for the children, as was reported by one of the caregivers in Baringo. The targeted households have now met the recommended 2 nets per family. The hope is to see less cases of malaria and avert the alarming one-child-per-month deaths from malaria among the registered children and youth.
By Leah Bett