My name is Avery Manousos and I am a Nothing But Nets champion living in Massachusetts.
The largest population of Ghanaians living in the United States is in Worcester, Massachusetts. Didn’t know that? Neither did I – until I studied abroad in Accra, Ghana. I discovered that a new friend’s uncle, brother, and cousin decided to build a new life in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was 5,022 miles away and my home felt closer than ever.
Living and studying in Ghana provided me the opportunity to challenge what I had accepted as my norms and my beliefs. I wouldn’t trade those two months for anything, despite the extreme heat, endless walking, and worst of all, the constant mosquito bites. In the U.S., a mosquito bite is a mere annoyance. In Ghana, it can mean life and death.
I have long been a champion with the Nothing But Nets campaign, a global grassroots organization committed to fighting malaria. Through engaging Members of Congress, meeting staff and volunteers, and attending the annual summit in Washington, D.C., I am grateful to have the opportunity to grow my passion and advocacy around fighting this preventable disease. However, I had never truly understood the damaging consequences of malaria until my time in Ghana – the long-lasting impact of malaria on individuals, families, and entire communities in Ghana, and its ability to contaminate all aspects of a flourishing Ghanaian society.
Because of COVID-19, malaria control programs are being postponed, critical prevention programs like distribution of mosquito nets are being delayed, and parents refrain from taking sick children to health clinics out of fear of the COVID-19 infection. I fear that the groundbreaking progress that has been made against malaria will be reversed. Global malaria death rates have dropped by 60% in the past 20 years, with treatments and prevention methods that prove malaria can be eradicated in our lifetime. Yet, we risk backsliding if we don’t act now.
In a global public health emergency, it is critical to consider all the evident threats to public health. In countries like Ghana, COVID-19 has now added to the devastation that malaria has already created. My very own Worcester community may be feeling that more than anyone could have realized. I encourage our community to challenge its beliefs and norms and continue to support and provide for those in need. If you want to learn how you can get involved in advocating for the fight against malaria, text the word “Champion” to 738674.
To hear more about Avery and her motivations for joining the Nothing But Nets campaign, check out this video from our Leadership Summit in 2017!