In case you missed it, on August 12 I had the privilege of joining singer and actress Mandy Moore, social activist (and malaria survivor) Derrick Ashong and PSI (Population Services International) in an awesome, one of a kind event – a Malaria Town Hall hosted on Facebook. With Derrick and Mandy joining from Los Angeles and PSI expert Angus Spiers and me joining from Washington, DC – and thousands of people tuning in from across the country and the world – we hosted a live-streaming discussion about malaria, with questions from people just like you.
It was an amazing experience! Thanks to all of the partners who helped to make it possible, including Facebook, UStream, and VSee. And – thanks to all of you who joined! We had tons of questions streaming in throughout the event. So many, in fact, that we were not able to answer them all! Check out some of the “Unanswered Questions” from the town hall below.
Weren’t able to join the town hall? Don’t worry – you can still watch it here:
P.S. Mandy was such a hit on the town hall that CNN’s Connect the World program later featured her as a “Connector of the Day”!
Is there a correlation between climate change and malaria rates?
As you probably know, malaria rates are highest in the tropical parts of the world, as mosquitoes live and breed in warm, moist climates. As global temperatures rise, there is a fear that the tropical zones will expand and the disease rates associated with the tropics will increase. However, a recent article from The New Scientist suggests that prevention methods like bed nets may be outpacing the expected increase in malaria due to warmer climates. Thanks to bed nets and other prevention methods, malaria rates are actually starting to decline.
Are we on track to reach the Millennium Development Goals, specifically regarding malaria?
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the world’s goals. Set in 2000 by the United Nations, they are the international standard for improving the lives of people around the world. The MDGs tackle the biggest problems facing the world today – these include global poverty, women’s and children’s health, hunger, and education.
This September, the UN will convene world leaders to review our progress on the MDGs. With respect to children’s health and, specifically, malaria – we are making progress. Childhood deaths have been reduced from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. According to the World Health Organization, one-third of the 108 countries are on track to meet the target for reducing malaria where the disease is prevalent.
Despite the progress, the need for continued support for life-saving bed nets remains high. Children and families will continue to need nets in order to maintain low levels of malaria and to achieve the UN goal of near-zero deaths from malaria by 2015.
What are the long-term effects of the insecticides on people?
With respect to long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets, the insecticides that are used to treat the nets are plant-derived insecticides – pyrethroids, which are highly toxic to insects (mosquitoes) but not toxic to humans. The insecticide-treated nets that the Nothing But Nets campaign purchases and distributes have been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy by the World Health Organization and have been approved under strict standards to ensure that the children and families sleeping under the nets will not get sick from the insecticide. Thus, the only long-term effect of these life-saving nets and the insecticides they are treated with is to be protected from malaria for up to four to five years.
Can people join the distribution trips and help hand out nets?
The Nothing But Nets campaign does conduct several observation trips each year to monitor the distribution of the bed nets funded by our supporters’ contributions and report back to our supporters about where the nets are distributed. We work through the UN agencies and in partnership with the local Ministry of Health on the net distributions, which are run by community health workers. These community health workers are trained in malaria information, how the nets should be used and cared for, and are ultimately known by the communities in which they work, making them best-suited to manage the distributions of the bed nets and the education of families on their use. This process ensures that the effort is sustainable over the long-run, as the community health workers stay in those communities and can follow up with families after the distribution campaign has ended.
In the past we have had the opportunity to host partners, champions and even supporters on these trips, although it takes a significant amount of time and coordination. Unfortunately we do not at this time have opportunities for supporters to join any upcoming distribution trips to help hand out the nets.
What are malaria’s effects on people being treated with HIV/AIDS?
Recently there have been interesting findings on the co-relation between malaria and HIV/AIDS. On the one hand, people living with HIV/AIDS are at increased risk of malaria, and HIV infection can decrease the efficacy of anti-malarial treatment. Malaria contributes to a temporary increase in viral load among HIV-infected people which may worsen malaria and increase mother-to-child transmission and transmission in adults. On the other hand, malaria causes anemia which often requires blood transfusions, a procedure that increases the risk factor for HIV infection where universal blood screening has not been achieved.
For more information, check out this fact sheet from our partners at Roll Back Malaria and VOICES.
How quickly does malaria spread in endemic areas?
The rate of transmission depends on a number of factors, specifically the mosquito population, the human immunity, and the environment. According to the World Health Organization, the Anopheles mosquito which spreads malaria (when it bites at night) breed in shallow collections of freshwater like puddles. Transmission is more intense in places where the mosquito lives a relatively long life and where it bites humans as opposed to animals. The long lifespan and human-biting habit of the 90% of the world’s malaria deaths are in Africa. Human immunity is another important factor. Immunity is developed over years of exposure, and while it never gives complete protection, it does reduce the risk that malaria infection will cause severe disease. For this reason, most malaria deaths in Africa occur in young children who have less immunity build up. Finally, transmission rates also depend on environmental conditions that may affect the abundance and survival of mosquitoes, such as rainfall, temperature and humidity. In many places, transmission is seasonal, with the peak during and just after the rainy season. Malaria epidemics can occur when climate and other conditions suddenly favor transmission in areas where people have little or no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low immunity move into areas with intense malaria transmission, for instance to find work, or as refugees.
Are bed nets the only way to prevent malaria?
There are actually several ways to prevent malaria: bed nets, medicines, indoor spraying efforts, and water treatment are all important tools. While there is significant research, there is not yet an effective malaria vaccine. Bed nets are one of the most effective ways to prevent malaria as malaria-carrying mosquitoes only bite at night. The long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets distributed by the Nothing But Nets campaign are impregnated with insecticide and are made with durable materials. They remain effective for up to 4 to 5 years (and up to 20 washes) before they need to be replaced.
How can service-oriented groups get involved with the campaign?
The best way a service-oriented group can get involved with the campaign is to help SPREAD THE BUZZ about malaria. We need to educate our families, friends, and communities about malaria and what each of us can do to help end this disease. For tools and resources for your organization, visit www.NothingButNets.net/downloads or email us at info@NothingButNets.net.
How do people react to receiving the bed nets?
This is a great question. Having traveled to Africa several times to observe the distribution of bed nets funded by Nothing But Nets supporters, I can report that during each and every distribution have witnessed mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters overjoyed to receive their bed net. I have watched mothers wait patiently in line under a scorching sun to receive the life-saving bed net that will protect their children from malaria. I have heard the word thank you in many, many languages – French, Swahili, Amharic…these nets are desired. They provide hope for a healthy future and healthy families.
Last year in Uganda we joined the UN Refugee Agency to distribute nets to Refugees in Kiryandongo camp. The entire community arrived to receive their nets and one by one the mamas came through the line, presented their health certificate, received nets for their family from the community health worker and said thank you – Asante Sana. The women did not go home immediately – they stayed and watched as their friends and family members received their nets and then shouted in joy waving their nets in the air! It was an amazing moment, demonstrating the sheer joy these women had in receiving the life-saving bed nets.
How long has Nothing But Nets been around?
While the UN Foundation has been working with the UN to fight malaria for years, it was Rick Reilly’s column about malaria in Sports Illustrated in May 2006 that ignited the campaign. The UN Foundation launched the Nothing But Nets campaign on November 14, 2006 – nearly 4 years ago. In that time we have working with dozens of partners and hundreds of thousands of supporters to raised over $32 million and send more than 3 million bed nets to families in Africa.
Do you partner with other NGOs for the net distributions?
Nothing But Nets works closely with various UN agencies such as the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, and the WHO in order to plan and implement the net distributions. In the case of the Central African Republic, we have also teamed up with Population Services International in order to fill an urgent need to get 837,000 nets to the Central African Republic—one for every family who needs one—by the end of the year. Learn more about this life-saving effort here!