ELCA Educational Programs Keep Malaria Nets Fighting Malaria

A recent article in The New York Times focused on the challenge of people using malaria nets as fishing nets, reminding us of the very real and difficult decisions people face between hunger and health. Our ELCA Malaria Campaign provides education with every net.
What the Times article reports is not a new problem in the fight against malaria, but the article brings it to a new light. The ELCA Malaria Campaign and Allison Beebe, Campaign Assistant for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, recently took the opportunity to share about how Lutheran malaria programs in Africa are already responding to this challenge.

“Every net that is distributed through the Lutheran malaria program is accompanied by educational programming about how to properly use the net, how to hang the net, and what benefits (health and otherwise) can be realized from appropriate net use,” Beebe writes in a recent blog post. “The Lutheran malaria programs which are supported by the ELCA Malaria Campaign are comprehensive, which means that programming is more than just nets (although nets are an important piece). The programs operate under four pillars: prevention, education, treatment and sustainable livelihoods. Nets fall under the “prevention” pillar, but only when joined with content from the “education” pillar.

Based on data available through the President’s Malaria Initiative, it appears that incidences of using the life-saving nets for fishing appears limited. Examples tend to be anecdotal and specific to communities along lakes and rivers. Even so, misuses are real and are driven by economics and food security concerns within these communities.

Lutheran malaria programs are already hard at work combating abuses of the nets by attempting to address economic and food security concerns through sustainable livelihoods programming. This effort involves microfinance projects, seed money for small businesses, financial literacy courses, training in bookkeeping, and loan programs. “If people are given an opportunity to participate in other income generating activities (and therefore be able to earn money for food), one goal is that they will not rush to the seashore to fish with mosquito nets,” writes Beebe.

Although The New York Times article was just published, misuse of malaria nets is by no means a new problem. Our Lutheran malaria programs have been aware of this and other challenges public health workers in malaria-prone areas face and work diligently for better education and use of these lifesaving nets. “Nobody is more concerned with the proper usage of nets in the field than our Lutheran health care professionals who are implementing these programs and working faithfully on net distribution campaigns,” writes Beebe.

Click here to read Beebe’s blog post in its entirety. Click here to read The New York Times article. Click here for more information about the ELCA Malaria Campaign and how you can help make a difference individually and through your congregation.