By Dorosella Bishanga and Bisrat Abiy
Kule Refugee Camp, Gambella, Ethiopia, 29 May 2018: Nyaluak Kun, 24, is a refugee at Kule Refugee Camp in Gambella, western Ethiopia. Originally from South Sudan, the mother of six has just received three long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets for her family. She says malaria has been a threat to her health and that of her family since the rainy season started.
“I am happy to receive these mosquito nets. I hope this is the right time that we have received the mosquito nets. Several times I have been sick with malaria. There was no solution for me. I get medicine, after a few weeks, I get sick again because of mosquito bites.”
For Nyaluak, the mosquito nets will not only keep the family safe from mosquito bites but also from other poisonous insects that enter homes during the rainy season.
Malaria is endemic to the Gambella Region and is one of the top three causes of sickness and death across all the refugee camps. The epidemic occurs mostly from April to June and September to November every year. Mosquito nets, in-door and out-door residual spraying, and environmental management are the most recommended malaria prevention and control interventions.
The standardized expanded nutrition survey of 2017 indicates that the proportion of households with access to at least one mosquito net is below 50 per cent in all the refugee camps, except for Kule at 54 per cent and Pugnido II at 60 per cent. With inadequate mosquito nets, malaria is rampant: last year alone, 128,520 cases and 33 deaths were recorded, 25 of them children under the age of five.
Distribution of mosquito nets to vulnerable groups, such as under five and malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women, and newly arrived refugees, is ongoing in all the refugee camps of Kule, Tierkidi, Nguenyyiel, Jewi, Pugnido I, Pugnido II, and Okugo.
However, the 2018 blanket distribution, targeting 386,000 refugees, started on 29th May in Kule Refugee Camp. It was combined with general food distribution using lists obtained from UNHCR population and household databases. With the overall coordination of the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UNHCR and UNICEF, refugees received mosquito nets at distribution centres managed by MSF-Holland, an implementing partner. Upon presentation of a mosquito net coupon obtained at the food registration centre showing the family size, the refugees would receive a mosquito net free of charge based on the UNICEF standard of one mosquito net for every two individuals.
UNICEF monitored the distribution exercise and conducted awareness and demonstration on slinging the mosquito nets. The awareness was done by Community Outreach Agents. Special messages with visuals were developed for under five children and pregnant and lactating women. The monitoring team also conducted interviews with refugees to ascertain their knowledge levels on utilisation of mosquito nets.
Nyaluak says the demonstrations were important although the refugees faced difficulties in fixing the nets because of the type of housing and beddings they had.
In all, 163,000 mosquito nets were distributed. They were procured by UNICEF with funds from the European Commission (ECHO) under a project to provide lifesaving and resilience-building health and nutrition interventions for South Sudanese refugees and host communities in Gambella.