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By Leocadia Bongben, Alethia Asong*, Benly Anchunda* & Antoinette Bambot*

Government has launched the free distribution of some 8,654,731 long lasting treated mosquito bed-nets to households.  The distribution, henceforth, commences with the identification of households and provision of identification vouchers for subsequent collection of the bed nets.

Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, launched the free distribution at the Yaounde Multipurpose Sports Complex on Saturday, August 20. The Prime Minister, who symbolically handed some of the mosquito nets to two families representing Cameroonian households, insisted that malaria remains the number one cause of mortality and morbidity in Cameroon.

He used the opportunity to salute the efforts of partners in the campaign like the Global Fund, UNICEF, MTN, IRESCO, amongst others that are contributing to knock out malaria from the country. There are 374 containers of mosquito nets to be proportionally distributed to the various regions of Cameroon, which cost the Government FCFA 34 billion.

The Northwest with a population of 1,851,617 would receive 856,182 bed-nets while the Southwest with a 1,420,277 would receive 656,733 bed nets. The Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, disclosed that these nets can be washed over 20 times with simple soap and not detergents.

Every two persons in a household would receive a bed net to ensure that everybody is protected from the killer disease. The target is to protect 14 million Cameroonians before December 2011. In the same light, the Minister declared that Cameroon is the first country in Central Africa to engage in the campaign against malaria.

He urged Cameroonians to help fight malaria and protect their kids against the disease through the effective use of the nets to be distributed subsequently. Charlotte Fatty Ndiaye, the World Health Organisation Representative for Cameroon, said subvention from the World Bank and development partners is estimated at US $ 3,800 million.

She encouraged collaboration between public and private partners. To her, “the State can not single handedly eradicate malaria.” Cameroonian musicians like X-maleya, Petit Pays, Richard Kings, Ann-Marie Ndze, Sydney and Ottou Marcellin graced the occasion. It is worthy to note that these musicians played the Malaria Anthem. Also, it was demonstrated how to effectively use the mosquito nets.

Meanwhile, 30 containers of the mosquito nets have arrived in Bamenda, Northwest Region.
The treated nets were received by the Regional Delegate for Public Health, Dr. Victor Ndiforchu and the Malaria Control Regional Chief of Unit Northwest, Dr. Odile Charlotte Tchekountouo.
Dr. Tchekountouo said the nets would be distributed free of charge. She said the distribution exercise will be done in two phases; house-to-house census of the population and the distribution proper.

Tchekountouo explained that a training programme for community-based organisation members in charge of distribution will run from August 25 to 26, on household census and headcount. The household census will follow the training programme from August 30 to September 8, 2011. She further said the distribution of the nets will be carried out from September 15 to 20.

As to measures taken to ensure that no one person collects the net twice and that the nets are not sold, Tchekountouo said receipts would be issued to each household to be used when collecting the mosquito nets and that the community-based distributors would carry registers which will match with the reports on the receipts handed to the different homes. She added that proper sanctions would be meted on any person caught trying to sell the mosquito nets.

Till date the National Malaria Control Committee has distributed only about 2,000,000 bed-nets mostly to children and pregnant women, the most vulnerable groups, which represent only 33 percent of the population. This is less than the 80 percent target set by 2010.

The initiative, “scaling up malaria control for impact in Cameroon, 2011-2015 Global Fund Round 9, an international advocacy to fight malaria comes in to fill the gap.  African Heads of State and Government recognised that malaria is a public health problem in Africa during the Abuja summit in April 2000.

Government, having adhered to the ‘Roll Back Malaria’ initiative, designed a national plan from 2003- 2007, which it revised in 2010, with the major objective of reducing mortality and mobility by 50 percent.

The plan to combat malaria is segmented in six axes, prevention, treatment, research and training; information, communication and social mobilisation; surveillance and follow-up and administration and finances.

* (UB & National Polytechnic Bambui Journalism Students On Internship)
With the support of IRESCO