NetsforLife®: Achieving Progress and Impact

April 20, 2011

With over 247 million cases of malaria occurring annually, NetsforLife® continues to be an innovative global player in the fight against this deadly disease. In commemoration of World Malaria Day 2011: Achieving Progress and Impact, theNetsforLife® program partnership is working to ensure that sustainable gains on both the national and community levels of its malaria prevention approach are maintained and bolstered.

For World Malaria Day 2011, NetsforLife® will join with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Mozambique to hang 100,000 malaria nets in homes in the Homoine and Panda Districts of Inhambane Province. Over the course of five days, 180 volunteers will be trained to help families learn how to use nets to prevent malaria, and an additional 400 volunteers will be mobilized for the distribution of nets.

“We are excited about partnering with agencies like UMCOR, a sister faith organization, to amplify the reach of the NetsforLife® malaria prevention initiative,” said Meg L. DeRonghe, Acting Executive Director of NetsforLife®. “Our local and global partnerships are critical to the sustainability of the program and the positive changes it is making in so many communities.”

Through community engagement, education, and monitoring and evaluation, NetsforLife® works in 17 malaria-endemic African countries and collaborates with international agencies, national programs and local malaria stakeholders to combat malaria by instilling a ‘net culture’: a community-wide understanding of the protective value of nets and the right way to use and care for them. In countries where NetsforLife® has been active for a number of years, there is now renewed focus on maintaining people’s working knowledge of how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented. [Watch a video interview with Samuel Asiedu Agyei, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager for NetsforLife®, discussing the importance of net culture in motivating families to take malaria seriously.]

Churches are often the only functioning institutions in communities located “at the end of the road,” and utilizing this long-standing, trusted delivery system to empower and unite people to bring about lasting results is essential to success. This strategy has led to widespread change in attitudes and behavior around malaria nets, and also helped NetsforLife® gain a reputation for effective community outreach. These outcomes have made the program a valued partner that is routinely solicited to participate in formal country-wide strategic planning, and often tasked with technical leadership of these key components to ensure better overall results. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has one of the highest rates of malaria cases and deaths in Africa, the initial baseline survey showed net use by children under five – the most vulnerable group – to be 9.2%. Currently, monitoring and evaluation analysis points to an impressive net use rate of 82.5%, which exceeds the World Health Organization target.

“The success of NetsforLife® is a result of our monitoring and evaluation program, which includes training people to collect data and assess the impact of the programs on communities that are often underserved by health facilities,” reflected Dr. Stephen Dzisi, NetsforLife®’s Technical Director. “Capacity building of local communities, and follow up to ensure malaria prevention knowledge is sustained, are built into the NetsforLife® system.” [Hear more from Dr. Dzisi in this hour-long NetsforLife® conference call, recorded on April 12.]

The goal for the current phase (2008-2013) of the NetsforLife® program partnership is to distribute 7 million nets in sub-Saharan Africa. So far, the program has distributed over 4.8 million nets, trained nearly 43,000 malaria control agents, and directly reached almost 9 million community members. From net use to symptom recognition and treatment-seeking behavior, all NetsforLife® metrics show significant progress in malaria prevention in program areas. Nevertheless, challenges in malaria control continue as the world races to achieve universal coverage (defined as one net for every two people) and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing malaria-related deaths by 75%.

In 2009, the Episcopal Church renewed its support of the MDGs by pledging 0.7% of its annual budget to the new NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund, inspiring Episcopalians to help fight the spread of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing awareness and raising $5 million for the campaign. The NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund is now the official channel for the Church’s support of the MDGs in the 2010-12 triennium.

Please visit our NetsforLife® page to learn more about Episcopal Relief & Development’s malaria program partnership. Donations can also be made over the phone by calling, toll free, 1.855.312.HEAL. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058. Please put “NetsforLife®/Malaria” in the memo line of all checks.

NetsforLife® is a partnership of corporations, foundations and faith-based organizations working to fight malaria in Africa. The program partnership, which has reached more than 35 million people, includes ExxonMobil, Standard Chartered Bank, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Starr International Foundation, the J.C. Flowers Foundation and Episcopal Relief & Development.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development rebuilds after disasters and empowers people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.