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We’ll Distribute 8 Million Treated Nets Soon – Malaria Unit Coordinator 

Interviewed by Ernest Sumelong

Dr. Odile Tchekountouo, Northwest Regional Coordinator of the Malaria Control Unit, has said, as part of a programme to scale up malaria control in Cameroon, over eight million long lasting insecticidal nets, LLINs, will be distributed in the country.

In this interview granted The Post after a two-day workshop with media owners and managers in Bafut, Dr. Tchekountouo talks about the "Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact in Cameroon", the LLINs distribution and the fight against malaria in the country. Excerpts:

We have just kicked off with a workshop on "Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact in Cameroon"; what is the programme all about?

The programme is a huge activity which Government and its various partners are putting in place to scale up the interventions in malaria control in Cameroon. This project would consist in the universal distribution of insecticidal mosquito treated nets to all Cameroonians.

The second objective would be to up the prevention of malaria in pregnancy and to reinforce the capacity of the National Malaria Control Programme, and also to scale up the correct treatment of the cases of malaria so as to have good results by 2015. And this activity is a five-year project granted by Global Fund for the fight against HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria called Round 9. This is a bit different from the two other rounds (Round 3 and 5) which were granted to Cameroon.

With the Round 3, focus was on scaling up prevention with just the distribution of mosquito bed nets only to children aged 0 to 5, and Round 5, which was funding mainly ACT for the treatment of cases and SP for the prevention of malaria. But this programme is more global for all the axes of malaria control; prevention, treatment and capacity building and reinforcement of some of the programmes.

Which are some of the partners Government is working with?

The main partner, which is the funding partner, is the Global Fund for the fight against HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Cameroon has its natural partners such as WHO and UNICEF, and within the country Government will implement the activity together with local NGOs such as Plan Cameroon, Association for Social Marketing, ACMS, IRESCO and Cameroon Coalition against Malaria, CCAM.

And also partners at all levels such as the media, we have MTN, Malaria No More and even the civil society, which will be involved from the central level to the community level to make sure that this huge programme records big success. As part of the programme, you plan to distribute over eight million insecticidal mosquito nets.

When will this distribution start?

We can say that the activity for the distribution started since January, because, to distribute more than eight million nets is not a joke. It is a huge activity and the burden of work is so huge that if we don’t prepare it very well, we will fail. We are still expecting the long lasting nets to reach Cameroon.

For some regions it has already arrived, but for us in the Northwest we are waiting for the arrival of our nets at the seaport in Douala by the 20th of July, and by the 4th of August, we should be receiving our nets in the Northwest.

And when the nets are already in Cameroon, we can say that the activity has started. When the nets are available, we have to transport them from the seaport to the various regions to the community. For the distribution of the nets per se, by mid August we will be on the field distributing vouchers and organising the distribution of the nets.

And that exercise can go up to the end of September because we don’t just have to distribute but make sure people receive the nets, install them and use them correctly. Measures have been put in place to ensure that the nets reach the beneficiaries. Everybody who wants to work with us should bear in mind that the nets are for free distribution to everybody in the community.

At first it was the treated bed nets, today you are talking of the long lasting insecticidal nets; what is the difference?

The difference is only on the insecticide or chemical that has been used. Before, we had a chemical with a short life span of six months and we had to treat the same net with the same chemical after every six months. It was not so effective because it required a lot of effort.

Now we have moved to those treated with an insecticide that lasts longer and this insecticide can be effective for four to five years and you can wash the net 20 times and it will still be effective. Also, you don’t need to treat the net often. That is the difference, if not, all of them are insecticide treated nets.

You are waging a war against malaria, what is it that Cameroonians should know about malaria and its prevention?

Malaria is the first killer disease in Cameroon and it is the disease that is making families poorer. It is a serious disease that can kill if nothing is done. Cameroonians should also know that, despite the fact that it is a killer disease, it is a preventable disease. You can prevent it by sleeping under treated mosquito nets and by keeping surroundings clean, by clearing bushes and stagnant water around the compound.

One can also prevent it by going to the hospital or the community relay agent as fast as possible when you feel feverish or when a child has fever. This is in order to treat it early enough to prevent the patient from evolving into severe malaria because it is severe malaria that kills.

It is not because we are in contact with malaria that we should automatically die. If we take treatment early enough, especially with the new component that we have (that is the ACT), you can be cured in three days. By that we reduce the transmission of the disease, we reduce time loss and so fight against poverty.

Who are the target population for this campaign?

In this "Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact", the entire population is concerned. Nets would be distributed in all homes and one net would be given to two persons. It means that if you are two of you in the house you will receive one net, and if you are four, you will receive two nets. But in case you are five of you, we will give only two nets because we are rounding up the odd numbers in order not to have problems.

And for that reason, we should be ready at home when the census of the population will start to make sure we register and receive the vouchers that will be given, and make sure that the day they are distributing the nets, we go and collect them. Then we go home and use them because it is the best and cheapest way to control malaria, fight the disease and finally improve on our lives and our economy.