Each time bed nets are distributed to communities in Africa to protect children and families from malaria, new stories are made. Each of those stories is a reminder of tens of thousands of supporters have been part of Nothing But Nets for seven years. With each net handed to a thankful mother, she knows she can shelter her children from a disease that takes an innocent life every 60 seconds. With your support, that’s what we’re doing this week in Nyarugusu refugee camp in a remote part of Western Tanzania, near the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This campaign has such an amazing and fun spirit – kids donating their birthdays to send nets, NBA stars sending nets for every shot they make, Girl Scout troops selling cookies and then giving all of the money to Nothing But Nets so we can help save lives. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we have thousands of heartwarming stories of grassroots supporters just like you doing incredible things to help us fight malaria. But the end focus is always the same: helping those families who need us the most. Their stories are also heartwarming, and this trip was a chance to connect directly with many of them, to hear their stories firsthand.
Nyarugusu has a bad malaria problem – very bad. Our first hour in the refugee camp made that clear. First it was a visit to the camp’s health clinic where the numbers are written on the wall. Last year, there were more than 62,000 (documented) cases of malaria – and there are only 68,000 people who live in the camp! It doesn’t take a math whiz or health expert to see that malaria in Nyarugusu is a great scourge. And we got a different perspective of malaria in Nyarugusu when we came face-to-face with the disease in the hospital where a doctor was tending to a room full of patients – mothers and children – all suffering from malaria. It’s scary to think that when the rainy season comes in a few months, malaria will hit even harder.
But it was a 12-month old boy, Moses, suffering from severe malnutrition that was the face of Nyarugusu on Day 1 for me. Moses is so small that he looks more like a 3-month old, and I had to hold back a flood of emotions – sadness, disbelief, frustration – when talking with his mother, who was sitting with him on the hospital bed, scared for her son. Moses was hooked up to an IV and being fed a formula that will help him gain weight quickly. However, the malnutrition has left Moses’ immune system so weak that if he were to get bitten by a mosquito with malaria the result would surely be a tragedy. Thankfully, Moses is safe tonight because there’s a net hanging over his hospital bed. And when he goes home, he and his family will have new nets to protect him from contracting the malaria. That new net was made possible by you and tens of thousands of supporters just like you. Moses and his family are the best reminder of why your support is important. Thank you for making a new story possible for Moses’ family and the people of Nyarugusu.