Changing Lives with Malaria Nets

From Cheryl Nelson – Well it was an incredible two-week journey to Malawi this summer. Working with the inspirational children, staff and supportive adults involved in MCM was life changing and hard to put into words. Our 31 volunteers were able to tackle many important individual tasks and issues that brought us to Malawi – most important, changing lives with malaria nets.

Thanks to your generous donations, $2700 was raised towards acquiring insecticide treated bed nets (ITNs)! Ken Mpemba was able to source malaria nets for $6.50/each (we originally were quoted at $20/net) and purchased 400 nets in total! These Long Lasting Insecticide treated Nets (LLINs) are of top quality with the insecticide in the threading.

Through the lower price point we were able to purchase enough malaria nets to provide universal coverage for all MCM children, staff members and support personnel.

Malaria Nets create a barrier

In perfect conditions, these nets will provide a barrier and risk reduction for malaria for approximately 3-5 years. Interviews with some of the wonderful MCM staff about malaria and prevention strategies produced such helpful information for me about public health theory versus realities on how this endemic disease impacts Malawi.

Realities of the net lifespan are that they are much shorter (1-3 years) due to the fact that generally people in the village do not sleep on beds – only grass mats if they are lucky (which rip the nets) or dirt floor, which leads to soiling and tearing. Tips from the MCM nurse to use bricks (which are plentiful) to roll gently over end of net for positioning, I never would have found on a CDC or WHO website.

Other challenges I learned are associated with housing conditions – many don’t have sufficient roof protection or structure, windows are bricked up to deter thieves, and sleeping quarters can consist of many individuals (and even livestock) all in one room.

A community affair

Villagers I met were very much aware of the value and importance of malaria bed nets. As with most things in impoverished countries, access is the issue. In communities like the one MCM serves, an ITN is the only realistic barrier and prevention method for malaria.

Phoebe (MCM Social Director), working with tribal chiefs, called a meeting for all guardians to come to MCM to hear my presentation and receive nets for each of their children. It was one of the most blessed moments of my life to be able to speak to these MCM guardians and children to review the importance of using insecticide treated nets for malaria prevention and why.

Henock (MCM Education Director) interpreted in Chichewa and when the presentation was done, our whole team was able to help distribute ITNs to the guardians. The guardians surprised me by waiting outside to take a picture.

It still makes me emotional to think about it because the unifying energy that day was: maternal protective. It’s really the same in any language. So powerful and humbling.

making an impact

These amazing guardians love these MCM children as their own. They knew the ITNs could keep their children safe from malaria and were so appreciative. It was an honor to distribute nets to teaching staff, kitchen, cleaning staff, security and construction workers, as well as our dedicated drivers during our stay. Everyone was so thankful.

Thank you so much for making a difference in these families lives. Your donation made a direct and immediate impact on the health and wellbeing of the children and staff at Malawi Children’s Mission.

Malaria is preventable and treatable. Intervention must remain ongoing to combat this disease. Through your help we have let this community know that we care and they are not forgotten.

Zikomo! All the best, Cheryl.