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250,000 Aid Mosquito Nets Vanish 

By Solomon Amabo

Over 250,000 treated mosquito bed nets donated to the Cameroon government by international aid agencies to be distributed in the northern regions simply vanished, health officials have admitted.

It is not yet clear how the bed nets, part of millions donated by aid agencies to be distributed across the entire country to prevent malaria, disappeared, but the North Regional Delegate for Public Health, Abdoulaye Bouba, speculated that at least some of them might still be in the keeping of some health personnel or security officers who are responsible for transporting them to health centers in remote areas. Some Health ministry officials, however, admitted that the bed nets could have been purloined by colleagues charged with their distribution, we learnt.

Public Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda, presiding at a meeting in Garoua December 6 to evaluate the effectiveness of the distribution of the aid package, instructed regional authorities to open investigations into the alleged theft of over a quarter of a million mosquito bed nets.

During the meeting, officials disclosed that only 68 percent of treated mosquito nets made available for distribution had reached their destinations. Hundreds of thousands of bed nets were supposed to have been distributed to households as part of preventive efforts in the global campaign against malaria, the biggest killer in sub-Saharan Africa, but a third are officially still unaccounted for. It is feared that the figure could be much higher.

Some locals told the Health minister that the mosquito bed nets had even been spotted in local markets.

It is probable that a significant proportion of the millions of other mosquito bed nets that were supposed to have been distributed in other parts of Cameroon also vanished.

If it is established that the mosquito bed nets were in fact misappropriated, that will only go to confirm widespread concerns that ongoing efforts to combat corruption in the administration are yet to have a real impact on the ground.

It is widely known in Cameroon that foreign aid is routinely misappropriated by government officials. Former Health Minister Urbain Olanguena Awono is is currently in detention on charges of swindling billions of francs in aid money destined for the fight against malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.

Some years back, an investigation by a local NGO discovered that Indian aid tractors destined for farmers were parked in the private compounds of government ministers and high ranking officials who had no use for them, years after they were supposed to have been distributed. No single official has yet been held to account.

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