[NOTE: This is an UPDATE to a case study initially published in 2009. Read the original case study for appropriate context.]
NetsforLife® is a malaria education and mosquito-net distribution program working to provide insecticide-treated nets in 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, from Angola to Zambia. Several years ago the group set itself the challenge of placing some seven million nets in people’s homes between October 2008 and the end of 2013. It met that goal by the end of 2011.
NetsforLife adheres to national malaria control protocols and often partners with a country’s Ministry of Health on national campaigns. The program is committed to community engagement and education.
“Before a program begins we start by going in and talking to political, religious and school leaders in a community, often presenting skits, films and musical performances at community assemblies,” says Stephen Dzisi, M.D., NetsforLife Technical Director.
Working though local channels, NetsforLife has trained more than 65,000 volunteers as malaria control agents, whose end-goal is to educate their neighbors and physically hang the nets in sleeping places, or at least deliver them as close as possible to the spaces. Communities choose volunteers, who are the hands, feet (and heart) of the program.
Behavioral change communication is also an important element of the program. It is complemented by a commitment to an 18-month monitoring and evaluation follow up.
“For every 10 nets distributed by NetsforLife,” Dzisi says, “another community member will acquire a long-lasting insecticide-treated net on their own, having heard ‘the message.’ This is evidence that a net culture—a community-wide understanding of the protective value of nets and the right way to use and maintain them is beginning to take hold in the communities we serve.”
The NetsforLife project is sponsored by a range of corporate and nonprofit partners, including ExxonMobil, Standard Chartered Bank, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the J.C. Flowers Foundation and Starr International Foundation. Episcopal Relief & Development, the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States, is both a funding partner and the implementing agency for the program.
By Ralph Fuller