Bed nets key to preventing child deaths from malaria

Malaria is one of the top killers of children under age 5. But the use of bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to prevent 1 million child deaths.

By Justin Douglass. Edited by Shawna Templeton. Photo by Kenneth Kibet.
Published February 13, 2012 at 12:00am PST

In Mali, sleeping without the protection of an insecticide-treated mosquito net is like playing Russian roulette — it’s a lethal game of chance.

A daily gamble

Every day, poverty forces families to gamble with their lives and the lives of their children. They often face a daunting choice between buying food and other “luxuries,” like mosquito nets under which to sleep.

If they choose to sleep unprotected, it’s not a question of whether they’ll get malaria, but when.

And, once they are sick, the second round of roulette begins. Will they make it to the clinic on time? Will the clinic have doctors, nurses, and medicine to help them? 

A leading cause of child deaths 

In Mali, nearly every family has been affected by malaria. Globally, and in Mali, malaria is a leading cause of death among children under age 5.

In a small village, Seydou, a father of seven, noticed that his son, Mamadou, was sick. He was vomiting, sweating, and suffering with diarrhea.

Seydou tried to take action the best way he knew — through traditional medicine.

He learned the traditional practices from his parents. But as he was preparing the mixture of ash from mango tree bark mixed with soap, his son lost consciousness.

Seydou despaired. His wife wept. He tried to speak words of hope. He believed God would do something.

They decided that although their child was unconscious, they would still wash him with the traditional solution. 

A narrow miss

Mamadou (right) almost died from malaria. Without a mosquito net, he might not be so fortunate next time.After an hour and a half, Mamadou regained consciousness but was still very sick.

The following morning, Seydou took his son to a health center, where he was treated with intravenous drips. He recovered some strength and was discharged with malaria tablets.

This was a narrow miss. Without a mosquito net, Mamadou might not be so lucky next time.

Bed nets: A key prevention tool

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to prevent 1 million child deaths.

Bed nets are also inexpensive and durable. By American standards, they cost very little and last up to four years.

However, for the millions of Africans surviving on less than $1.25 a day, bed nets are economically out of reach.

World Vision’s response

World Vision is helping families to combat malaria in Mali and around the world. In Mali, sponsored children are provided bed nets.

Through our End Malaria campaign, we aim to to contribute to a 75-percent reduction in malaria cases, with the end goal of near-zero preventable malaria deaths by 2015.

Serving in 62 countries affected by malaria — including 23 in sub-Saharan Africa — World Vision is equipping tens of thousands of volunteer caregivers and staff to fight malaria. We do this by:

>> Distributing bed nets
>> Educating communities
>> Supplying antimalarial drugs

With increased access to bed nets, Seydou can protect his family from a tiny, yet potentially fatal, mosquito bite.

Four ways you can help

Pray for children and families in malaria-prone regions. Pray that they would have access to bed nets and other resources necessary to protect them from malaria.

Make a one-time gift to help provide bed nets for a family. Every $18 you give will provide long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that will protect an entire family from deadly malaria.

Sponsor a child in Mali. Your love and support will help provide life-giving basics to a boy or girl in need, like medical care.

Send a message to your members of Congress and the president. Urge them to support efforts to eradicate global malaria.