Fighting Malaria in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Ecuador is one of several Latin American countries on the path to becoming malaria-free in the coming years. Malaria has existed for centuries in Ecuador, particularly in Amazonian and remote coastal communities. In the early 2000’s, Ecuador’s Ministry of Health started training thousands of local staff and volunteers in these remote communities to diagnose, treat and track malaria cases, as part of an expanded malaria elimination campaign. This campaign has reduced malaria cases from 800,000 in 2000 to 1,843 in 2019.
Unfortunately, progress has stagnated in recent years due to increased trans-border mobility, among other challenges. Nothing But Nets has joined a local-global effort to help keep Ecuador on the path to becoming malaria-free. With your help, we’ve provided 50,000 insecticide-treated bed nets to Ecuador’s Ministry of Health, which were distributed to indigenous Amazonian communities and other remote malaria-affected regions.
One of these communities is Kapawi, a village owned by the indigenous people of Achuar. Nestled deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon near the Peruvian border, Kapawi is one of the most pristine and isolated points in Latin America. Only accessible by air, the closest town is a ten-day walk. Before 2000, the Achuar had little access to health care and relied on their traditional knowledge of medicinal plants to treat illnesses such as malaria.
“The malaria situation in our community was terrible. We suffered a lot,” said Turipia Sumpa, an Achuar man and microscopist. Turipia is part of a new generation of indigenous people who’ve been trained as health workers and are leading the fight in their communities against diseases like malaria.
“I will always remember with pride how I saved the life of two tiny children that were almost dying from malaria,” Turipia said. “Some people thought they were suffering because of bad spirits. But I convinced them otherwise and diagnosed and treated them for malaria. Their mothers still thank me for helping them understand what malaria was and treating their children.”
Insecticide-treated bed nets have become essential fixtures in most Ashuar households. Health workers routinely distribute bed nets around the community and teach residents how to hang them properly. Midwives also play a critical role in malaria prevention, since pregnant women are highly susceptible to malaria infection.
“Every time I see a pregnant woman, I encourage her to sleep under a mosquito bed net and I refer her to the health center so she can get screened and treated if needed,” said Olga Pitiur, a midwife in Wachirpas, a village in the Ecuadorian Amazon a few miles away from Kapawi. “I always hope that one day, those children will become nurses or doctors and will lead and take care of our community.”
Our work in Kapawi and other Ecuadorian communities was made possible by your generous donations. Thank you! To learn more about Kapawi and Ecuador’s fight against malaria, watch this video here; and check out our Exposure page for more stories and visuals.
Meet Marcia Canter
Marcia Canter is a great example of how to infuse two passions together – malaria elimination and youth engagement – to create real impact. Marcia has been involved with Nothing But Nets since the very beginning and has presented the issue of malaria in over a dozen classrooms across Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Learn more about her story and how she advocates for Nothing But Nets below and read the full interview here.
Malaria doesn’t tend to be at the forefront of the average American’s mind. How did you become an advocate for this issue?
It started when I was a church volunteer teaching Sunday School to a group of 7th and 8th graders. There were mostly boys in my group and, like most boys that age, they weren’t super interested in anything I had to say. Around that time, I read an article by Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated about the need for bed nets to prevent malaria in Africa. My Sunday school kids loved basketball and I thought they may be interested in something Rick Reilly had to say. It turns out, they were! We committed to doing a 24-hour basketball marathon to raise money for the Nothing But Nets campaign. Attendees paid for tickets, pledges, and food. One of my kids collected a pledge from his uncle stating that he would donate $100 for every consecutive free throw his nephew made. Well, he made 12 free throws in a row that night. That event raised over $3,000 and it became an annual event at my church for several years.
What do you enjoy about being a Nothing But Nets champion in particular?
The diversity of the people I have met through Nothing But Nets is amazing to me. I’ve attended two of the leadership summits in Washington D.C., and I meet so many different people – people in the health field, JCI members, Opera singers from Iowa, and celebrities from Haiti. It’s a pretty broad circle of amazing people who are united by one common thread – a passion to end malaria.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned advocating for Nothing But Nets and malaria in general?
Don’t underestimate the ability of children and young people to create real change. A few years ago, Nothing But Nets connected me with a 2nd-grade teacher in Arvada, Colorado. Before I presented to them, I was honestly thinking, “what am I going to tell these babies about malaria?” After I presented the issue to them, they ended up organizing a lemonade stand and raised around $70. It doesn’t sound like much but to me, it was incredible because those kids will carry that experience with them for a long time. Children’s hearts are bigger than you may think and they constantly prove to me that you’re never too young to be a champion.
Champions like Marcia are the foundation of our campaign; and with their unwavering passion and strength at our back, we know that we can be the generation to end malaria for good.
Protecting Displaced Nigerians from Malaria and COVID-19
With more than 790,000 cases reported in Africa, the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating across the continent that carries over 90% of the world’s malaria burden. Africa’s reported COVID-19 cases include more than 15,000 medical workers, many of whom deliver vital malaria services to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. In the malaria-affected world, even brief delays in essential health services can lead to rapid surges in malaria and other deadly diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that deaths from malaria could double in 2020 if malaria programs such as net distributions and treatment provisions are severely disrupted due to COVID-19.
We must protect frontline health workers to ensure essential health services continue. And so, thanks to your support, Nothing But Nets is taking immediate action. We’ve joined an innovative partnership to provide COVID-19 protection for medical workers in one of the world’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach regions: Nigeria’s Borno State. Borno is the epicenter of a decade-long violent conflict and humanitarian crisis initiated by Boko Haram. Malaria remains the highest cause of reported morbidity (44%) and mortality (34%) in Borno, which is also plagued by extreme rates of other infectious diseases and malnutrition. COVID-19 has yet to reach peak transmission in Borno, but the risk of outbreak is high due to under-resourced health systems, lack of water and sanitation infrastructure, cramped living conditions, and weakened immune systems.
This partnership, which Nothing But Nets is supporting, will provide disinfection kits to 100 health facilities that serve 2 million Borno residents living in the most crisis-affected communities, including approximately 600,000 displaced persons.
These kits include EPA-approved sanitization products proven effective against coronavirus along with pictogram instructions for the application, frequency, and safe handling of each component within the kits. These kits will be distributed over the next few weeks and months during Borno’s peak malaria season. As the program unfolds, we plan to share some on-the-ground stories about the kits and healthcare delivery in Borno. Stay tuned!