Children across the West African nation of Benin sleep safer at night and live healthier lives because of a modest pilot program to decrease malaria-related deaths. Directed by Africare, a non-profit organization committed to improving the lives of people in Africa, the pilot program is said to have delivered such outstanding results that it was immediately expanded throughout the entire country by the government of Benin.
Benin’s President Boni Yayi , in recognition of the program’s remarkable success, has honored Africare president, Dr. Darius Mans and the organization he leads, by appointing him an Officer of the National Order of Benin, Africare newsletter’s latest edition has confirmed.
“It is a privilege to be recognized by President Yayi on behalf of Africare and its Beninese staff who implemented the program to ensure that children, the future of this great nation, are protected from malaria, the number one killer of children under five years old,” said Dr. Mans.
The Africare Malaria Prevention Strategy
With financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and in collaboration with the Benin Ministry of Health (MOH) and Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), Africare launched a pilot program in 2004 to train members of local women’s groups on how to control malaria in their communities.
Beginning in two departments, Couffo and Mono, the Africare-trained women shared their knowledge with others on how to protect children under five years and pregnant women from malaria.
By 2008, the incidence of malaria dropped 73 percent in the two departments despite a national increase of 65 percent over the same period.
More importantly, malaria-related deaths of children under five dropped 84 percent, while the national average only decreased by 18 percent.
Benin Picks Africare for nationwide initiative
Due to the program’s success, The Global Fund renewed its support and recommended the initiative be expanded to cover all of Benin. The Benin MOH and CCM again turned to Africare to lead the comprehensive malaria control program.
The Africare led nationwide initiative, in addition to training women’s groups on malaria prevention and treatment, also coordinated the distribution of nearly eight million long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets in an effort to reach universal coverage.
Africare’s malaria prevention and treatment efforts also included additional benefits such as communities spending fewer financial resources on malaria medicines and an overall decrease in the number of days children missed school.
One village elder reported: “Whatever Africare is doing is working because my village is getting crowded. Children are no longer dying as often as they used to.”
Africare Approach May Defeat Ebola
“In light of the horrific Ebola outbreak that is devastating neighboring West African countries, the Africare approach of Africans empowering Africans with the knowledge and resources to defeat a deadly disease such as malaria may be applied to other health crises on the continent, including Ebola,” Dr. Mans asserted.