The anticipation is building here in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) as the mosquito net distribution is ready to be launched on Thursday. Last night at 2:30 a.m., Mandy Moore arrived here in CAR to learn more about the specific need for nets in this country so she can do her part to raise awareness upon her return home. Mandy Moore has come to learn the stories of the families who have lost children to malaria and share those stories so that they don’t go unheard. Today we had a full day of activities and everywhere we go, people are excited to see Mandy. For a country like the Central African Republic, one of the poorest in the world, her presence reminds people that they are not forgotten. Even Dr. Moyen, the Head of the National Malaria Control Program here in CAR (and seen in the photo with Mandy), shared that his dreams have come true because he got the opportunity to meet Mandy!
We started the day off with a meeting with PSI/ACAMS. A small girl singing a beautiful song greeted Mandy and presented her with a bouquet of flowers. The PSI Country Representative filled us in on the history of the Central African Republic and gave us the context on how it became a country marred by conflict and limited resources. From there we continued on to a meeting at UNICEF where we learned about the overall child mortality rates (which are staggering statistics) and the upcoming net distribution in partnership with Nothing But Nets and PSI. In addition, the Mentor Initiative, another local partner organization that the Nothing But Nets campaign has worked with in CAR, shared their in-depth methodologies for how they prepare communities and educate them prior to the distributions. They use community videos, skits and theatre to educate families. They even have implemented a mandatory course in malaria as a prerequisite for high school graduation!
Massive thunderstorms rolled in late afternoon but that didn’t prevent us from stopping at a large warehouse holding 40,000 nets ready for delivery this week. We arrived in time to catch men singing in unison as they loaded the bundles of nets on the trucks and headed out to the communities. Mandy commented on how this visit helped to show the true magnitude of a net distribution such as the one taking place this week.
As I have had the chance to meet with many local partners over the last few days, it’s abundantly clear that there is a desperate need to cover CAR with mosquito nets. The rainy season brings out swarms of mosquitoes every night and we are all too aware that, for many, this can mean imminent illness. The partners who have collaborated over the past months all agree that this distribution is a wonderful step forward in ending malaria deaths in Africa by getting a mosquito net to every family who needs one in CAR. We are very excited to have Mandy share in this incredible week with us and to use her voice in the fight against malaria. Today, as she began to understand the magnitude of the situation, she also met numerous people who thanked her and showed immense appreciation for her willingness to learn and understand the situation. The people of CAR know the importance of a mosquito net and want to do their part to make sure their own families are protected.