Uganda: Free Nets Changing Lives of Women in Amuria12 January 2008
IT is about 11:00am on a cloudy Wednesday at the Health Centre III in Amuria district, northern Uganda. Scores of young women who have come for antenatal services, sit anxiously on the veranda, waiting to be attended to.
Many of them are either pregnant or have young children strapped onto their backs or hovering restlessly around them. They are also being told about the signs of malaria and how to seek immediate treatment. One of the health workers is demonstrating how to use a long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net.One of the women is 28-year-old Christine Adong, a vegetable vendor.Her children, Joshua, 4, and Esther, 3, tired and irritable, cling to their mother, as she waits to get a free mosquito net.Adong has seen many children die of malaria. She knows that mosquito nets are good for her family for protection against malaria.Many families in the camp cannot afford a treated mosquito net at the local market price of shl0,000. Adong is among the 1,500 beneficiaries of the Malaria Consortium's programme of distributing free Long-Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets (LLINs).Malaria is estimated to kill one child in Africa every 30 seconds. In Uganda, the disease is the leading killer of pregnant women and children under five, accounting for 320 deaths daily. But there is new evidence that sleeping under treated mosquito nets regularly can save many lives.It is for this reason that Malaria Consortium has intervened to distribute free LLINs to vulnerable groups through antenatal care services in the five northern districts of Uganda.Because of the war in the north, only eight out of 20 sub-county level health centres in Amuria district are functioning."It's a real struggle to get qualified staff in Amuria," says Dr. Erisa Muiwani, the district director of health."Working conditions in the camps are not easy, simply because the basic necessities like decent housing, running water and electricity are not available.""There is demand for health services, but these services are not available to meet the demand," says Francis Okongo, the medical clinical officer at Amuru Health Centre III. With the help of UNICEF and USAID under the AFFORD health marketing initiative, the Malaria Consortium is distributing LLINs through antenatal services.According to Malaria Consortium, this distribution model has been a success, with a recent survey demonstrating 90% ownership and 85% utilisation by women and children under five, six months after the group had received the nets.
Adong is full of praise for Malaria Consortium.
"Before I started using mosquito nets, I used to cover myself and my sons with a blanket, but we would still get bitten. I would have to rush one of them to the clinic for treatment. It has been a year and only Esther has had malaria once in that time.By the end of 2007, Malaria Consortium had distributed more than 1,000 LLINs in Amuria.