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Nothing But Nets Blog
Editor's Note: This piece was originally written for Washington Life Magazine (find it here) by Mandy Moore, singer, actress, and Champion in the fight against malaria. We just had to share!
I did a Google search on the history of malaria. It’s the disease that kept European explorers at bay on the coasts of Africa, delayed the opening of the Panama Canal and became a key component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s effort to stimulate economic development in the American South.
For 3.3 billion people around the world, malaria is more than a historical reference. It is a daily reality that kills one child every 45 seconds in sub-Saharan Africa.
Recently, I traveled to Cameroon with D.C.–based global health organization, Population Services International (PSI) for which I am an ambassador, and with the U.N. Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign. I was traveling with a bipartisan delegation of Congressional staffers to learn about the Cameroonian government’s upcoming campaign to distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets across the entire country—no easy feat.
At the beginning of the month, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins and the City of Dallas proclaimed the first week in September as Nothing But Nets Week in Dallas! Our many local partners joined us for an event at City Hall where a representative from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's office also presented Nothing But Nets with a Congressional Record Statement, which the Congresswoman also read on the floor of the House of Representatives: "Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues to join me in recognizing the achievements of the Nothing But Nets campaign and in supporting their valiant efforts to end the spread of malaria worldwide."
Nothing But Nets Director Chris Helfrich recognized three groups– from the First United Methodist Church, McCullough Middle School, and Major League Soccer – for being true Champions in the fight against malaria. The youth group of First United Methodist Church and the students of McCulloch Middle School both raised over $10,000 for bed nets through fun basketball competitions. Ugo Ihemelu, star player of FC Dallas, accepted the award on behalf of our partners FC Dallas and Major League Soccer for their support and leadership in the movement to end malaria. The event was a fantastic reminder of how people across the country are coming together to voice their support for ending malaria once and for all.
Readers - We’d love to hear your city’s story. Tell us: What is your city doing to join the fight against malaria?
Note: This post was authored by a representative for UNICEF in Cameroon, Ora Musu Clemens-Hope.
On August 20, Dr. Esther Tallah, the head of the Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria, and I set out for Mfou, 25 kilometers outside of Yaounde, to be part of the country’s largest ever bed net distribution to deliver almost 9 million long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, many of which Nothing But Nets supporters helped send.
During the census phase, volunteers make up teams, who help count households throughout the country and give out vouchers for the number of nets the household will need. This process helps make sure each family gets the nets they need to protect themselves from malaria.
A few weeks ago, the Cottontail Cobias Swim Team of Springfield, Virginia swam laps to save lives. The Cobias hosted their second annual swimathon for Nothing But Nets, an event everyone is eager to participate in. Ranging from 3-18 years old, the Cobias wanted to make a difference in the world and help other kids across the world.
In total, the Cobias swam 8,838 lengths, 220,950 meters, or 137.291 miles – the distance from Springfield to Williamsburg, Virginia. Participants raised money through donations and pledges – enough to send nearly 500 bed nets to Cameroon. Since a bed net can protect a family of four, that means we’ve protected thousands of lives!
It was exciting and inspiring to see kids of all ages enthusiastic to save lives. Five-year-old Andrew Downham raised over $200, nine-year-old John Sierra raised $445, and nine-year-old Heidi Weston raised $253 by swimming and holding a lemonade stand. This was again proof that anyone can make a difference in the world. If a five-year-old can be a lifesaver, then so can you!
On Monday, the Nothing But Nets team kicked off our Dallas city tour by recognizing our partner Boy Scouts of America and one very special Boy Scout in particular, 13-year-old Nate Stafford. Honoring Nate at the National Scouting Museum was an exciting way to begin our Dallas activities!
We were happy to join Boy Scouts of America to honor Nate for achieving (and exceeding!) his goal of raising $10,000 to send life-saving bed nets to Africa with Nothing But Nets. Nate graciously accepted his award and spoke to the crowd, reminding all of us that even when a goal seems unachievable, and people say it can’t happen; it really can!
If anyone understands mosquitoes and summer heat, it’s Texans like me. As summer comes to a close, many of us here in the United States are counting (and complaining about) our many mosquito bites. But what many Americans don’t realize is that in countries like Cameroon, a mosquito bite isn’t just itchy — it’s potentially deadly.
Malaria is a disease spread by a single mosquito bite, and is the number one cause of death in Cameroon. However, it can be easily prevented with an insecticide-treated bed net, which can help a family of four sleep safely, protected from malaria for up to three years. Cameroon has seen malaria rates triple over the last five years, largely due to lack of prevention tools like bed nets.
Recently, a new study was released focused on malaria and insecticide-treated bed nets. Based on observations in a small village in Senegal, the study suggests that mosquitoes are developing resistance to the insect-killing chemical that coats the nets. (Find the full study online here)
As Dr Joseph Keating from Tulane University says: "We need to be very careful when generalising these data to the larger continent of Africa as a whole; there is plenty of variation between communities and within communities…I think over all the benefits of nets certainly outweigh this potential loss of acquired immunity."
As scientists around the world research new ways to fight malaria, it's always fascinating to read about studies like these – but it's also important to recognize that what happens in one small village in Senegal may not be the same for another village in Kenya or Cameroon. Just last week on our trip to Cameroon, I was able to see firsthand the impact these nets have on the families who receive them – and what a difference they make in the fight against malaria.
I'm half way across the world, and today I am reminded of one of the many things that connects us. It's the hope that a parent in LA or DC or Yaounde has: that their child will have a better life than they do.
Today our group traveled to a rural village in the Okola district of Cameroon. The entire village (about 500 people) welcomed us with traditional song and dance - we met men, women and children, even the village chief - it was a very special welcome.
This morning, I visited the Chantal Biya Foundation, a health clinic in Cameroon’s capital city of Yaounde. There I talked to the doctors and community health workers, who told me that they see dozens of cases of malaria each day – cases like Nouriatou, a little girl I met who was undergoing treatment at Chantal Biya.
I met two-year-old Nouriatou and her mother, and heard her story. Nouriatou arrived at the hospital last night in critical condition with a high fever and seizures, symptoms of her severe case of malaria. Fortunately, Nouriatou’s story has a happy ending – she was able to get the life-saving malaria treatment she needed before it was too late.
Sadly, thousands of children in Cameroon aren’t as lucky as Nouriatou. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Cameroon, and children under five are particularly vulnerable. But with something as simple as an insecticide-treated mosquito net, malaria is easily preventable.
Today I landed in Yaounde, Cameroon.
It's an incredible feeling — Cameroon is preparing for its largest ever mosquito net distribution. The nets will help protect hundreds of thousands of families from malaria, the leading cause of death in Cameroon, and I'm really glad to be playing a role in this historic campaign to save lives.
Over the next four days, I'll write about my experiences on the ground and share some of what I learn and a few stories about the people I meet and how malaria impacts the people of Cameroon.
The Nothing But Nets team has been traveling throughout the country over the past two weeks, including New York City (twice!), Philadelphia, San Francisco and Atlanta. While all of these trips have involved great visits with partners, Champions, and supporters, our trip to Atlanta was a very special experience because of the amazing members of long-time Nothing But Nets partner Usher's New Look Foundation (and because we got to meet Usher!).
Usher's New Look Foundation invited Nothing But Nets to participate in their annual World Leadership Conference and awards ceremony. It was exciting to meet so many young leaders from across the country and to hear how they've been giving back to their communities - including sending nets and saving lives with Nothing But Nets!
Yesterday (July 31) was African Women’s Day. The world celebrated the millions of women in Africa who are making a difference in their homes, their communities, and their world.
These women are everyday heroes, whether they are mothers, teachers, politicians, or students. Jamila Hassan, for instance, is working to eliminate malaria as an educator, health advocate, and mother of three. As the only female supervisor in the Zanzibar Urban District, she’s working hard to improve the health of her community.
In Africa, women are especially vulnerable to malaria. According to the World Health Organization, around 30 million women become pregnant each year in places where malaria is endemic. Pregnancy weakens women’s immune systems – making them more susceptible to contracting malaria. Malaria during pregnancy can lead to health complications and accounts for up to 200,000 newborn deaths each year.
For years, scientists have been searching for a way to stop malaria-carrying mosquitoes in their tracks. While bed nets remain the most effective tool for protecting families from being bitten by the nocturnal mosquitoes, new technology is looking to cut the risk by trapping and killing the mosquitoes before they hit the net.
A solution may be simpler than it seems. Scientists in Tanzania found the stinky smell of socks is the perfect bait for mosquitoes, and are using the odor to draw the bugs into a poisoned trap. According to Dr. Fredros Okumu, head of the research project, the chemical-imitated odor attracted four times as many mosquitoes than a sockless human in trial experiments, and it killed up to 95 percent of the insects.
Working for Nothing But Nets and the UN Foundation, I’m often asked how close we are to reaching the global goal of ending malaria deaths by 2015. Our team is asked questions like these a lot – on Facebook and Twitter and via email, phone calls, and letters – and we love it. Our supporters want to be as informed as possible in the fight against malaria, which is awesome!
To help answer questions like these, I’m so excited to share a (very cool) new infographic from our friends and longtime partners, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Check out the map, the facts and figures, and learn about the work that still needs to be done to end malaria deaths by 2015. There’s a lot of useful information in there, and the bottom line is this:
We’re making progress in preventing and treating malaria, but together, we can do more.
When they met in the seventh grade in Needham, MA, Megan Dardinski and Colin Barrett weren’t aware of the public health crisis malaria was causing around the world. Years later, they’re using their wedding to help protect 100 families from the disease.
"It is so easy to get caught up in your day-to-day routine, between work, school, and family, but there are so many people whose only day-to-day routine is their struggle to survive," said Megan. After learning about Nothing But Nets from Colin’s father, Tim, they decided to give a small contribution on behalf of each guest, in lieu of wedding favors, to Nothing But Nets. Their friends and family will also be able to learn more and keep spreading the buzz.
Megan recently earned her Masters in Public Health from Boston University and after learning that bed nets can help stop the spread of malaria by up to 90 percent, said "For us, this was a no-brainer."
Congratulations, Megan and Colin! Thanks for spreading the buzz through your special day.
Giving back for me started when I was planning my seventh birthday party. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean struck on my birthday that year, December 26th, 2004. My father told me about what had happened and I felt that I should help, so I asked my friends to bring donations instead of presents to give to JCI Operation Hope, the relief program for the victims of the tsunami.
It felt so great to give, that I wanted to make it a tradition. In the years after that, I’ve asked my friends to donate to Nothing But Nets — because we all get gifts we don’t need. With the donations, people can save a life or even a family. It's another way to spread the buzz by letting more people know about the deaths from malaria.
Hello! I'm Chris Helfrich, the new director for the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign.
Like many of you, five years ago, I read Rick Reilly’s column in Sports Illustrated. I learned that malaria — a preventable disease — killed a child every 30 seconds in Africa. I read that an insecticide-treated net can protect a family from the disease, and discovered how easy it is to send a net and save a life by giving just $10.
Today is World Refugee Day – a day to honor the nearly 50 million displaced people around the world. We’re proud to support the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – which works to provide refugee families with food, water, and shelter. And we’re proud of our supporters, who have helped us send more than 1 million nets over the last few years to protect refugees in Africa from malaria.
Working with UNHCR programs in over 15 countries like Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire,Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and more, the nets you’ve sent have made a difference. The malaria rates in these camps were dramatically reduced. Earlier this year (thanks to your efforts and generous contributions), Nothing But Nets raised $350,000 to send nets, save lives, and ensure a healthier future for refugee families in Liberia in less than a month.
Here in the United States, fathers everywhere are their kids’ #1 fans, cheering them on throughout their lives. Some of my best memories as a child are fishing and camping with my five brothers and sisters and dad. Thanks to him, I’m able to enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer.
Growing up in Colorado, we didn’t have to worry about contracting malaria from mosquitoes on our camping trips. But for fathers in countries across Africa, protecting their kids is more difficult than using a bottle of bug spray. They need life-saving bed nets, like the ones you can send with Nothing But Nets, to ensure happy and healthy lives for their kids.
In 2006, bishops and basketball players from the NBA and the United Methodist Church teamed up with the UN Foundation as the founding partners of the Nothing But Nets campaign. Now, more than five years later, this partnership is stronger than ever.
The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder and Oklahoma UMC came together to become Champions in the movement to end malaria this spring, joining forces to send nets and save lives at “Nothing But Nets Night.” Proceeds from the night went to Nothing But Nets and the UMC sold more than 600 tickets to the Oklahoma City Thunder game! Congregation leaders, including Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., encouraged fans to send nets and save lives.
It was a great event that raised more than $10,000 — enough to send over 1,000 nets to protect families in Africa!