NetsforLife®: Impacting Lives in Conflict

As Program Support and Logistics Officer for NetsforLife®, Episcopal Relief & Development’s malaria prevention partnership, I work closely with Dr. Stephen Dzisi, our Technical Director, to respond to project design and implementation issues for partners in 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. My job includes organization of the training and program assessment schedules, assessing the overall technical performance of programs, mapping partners’ technical competencies and identifying any gaps in implementation.  In addition, I design protocols to aid communication and behavior change while also being a resource on country-level logistics before, during and after malaria net campaigns.

When working with and for people, I have found the most heartwarming experience is to see satisfaction on the faces of people whose lives you want to help improve. This was my experience recently when I went on a field visit to the Diocese of Boga in the Ituri Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The purpose of my trip was to build the capacity of volunteers for effective behavior change communication after our recent hang-up of 22,000 malaria nets in four program sites, including Bukiringi. This area has suffered ongoing conflict and is hosting many people who were forced to leave other parts of the country. These internally displaced persons never thought they could escape the deadly proboscis of the mosquito because many do not have beds to sleep on, let alone somewhere to hang nets. This feeling has made a bad situation even worse for them, as it adds yet another challenge and they feel even more left out.

However, after about three and half hours of training and demonstration on how long-lasting insecticide-treated nets can be hung ANYWHERE—even over a local mat laid on the floor—the level of excitement was so high that a training that was meant for about 30 volunteers almost became a public sensitization session.

The church building was filled to capacity, with people outside listening through the windows. Even the national army commander, who was leading a battalion of soldiers to keep peace in the area, was present to learn about this simple but life-saving innovation. For once, the community members’ constant fear of attack and ever-nagging feeling of hopelessness seemed to have been submerged in excitement and the hope that they too, in a way, are beginning to live normal lives.

With some basic technology and training, NetsforLife® is transforming communities like Bukiringi across the continent. No wonder the net retention and usage rates in our program areas are the highest in the world. For me as a public health scientist, work couldn’t be more exciting!

Cletus Asare is the Program Support and Logistics Officer for NetsforLife®. He is based in Accra, Ghana.

Photo: Cletus (left) leads the capacity-building training session at the Anglican chapel in Bukiringi.