When I came to Tanzania on vacation two years ago, one of the things I loved was sleeping in fabulous beds with mosquito nets. The nets were hung from the posters of the bed and opened and closed like curtains. It was like having a princess canopy bed you wished you had as a kid.
See. How cool is that when they get all closed and you have your private fancy shelter? (Local readers will notice the flamingo bag, since that is what I am now carrying.)
That was vacation. Now let’s talk about life.
Tanzania is a country whose population is about 44 million, just a bit more than the state of California, about 14% of the population of the US. In Tanzania, 60,000 to 80,000 deaths per year are caused by Malaria. That’s the equivalent of my entire hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s the equivalent of every person in Melbourne, Florida, where I’ve also lived. Take a moment if you will and think about 60,000 to 80,000 people in your town or state, dying of a preventable, treatable disease. Every year. Malaria is the biggest killer of children 5 and under. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of African deaths in 2012 were caused by Malaria.
In Africa, every minute a child dies of Malaria. Most of us can think of a family who lost a child, and perhaps it’s your family and I apologize for making this personal. It’s hard to imagine the grief and loss experienced when a child dies. It happens every minute on this continent. And 40% of Malaria deaths strike individuals over 5 years old. Of all out-patient medical visits here, and trust me when I tell you, Tanzanians aren’t heading to the doctor all that often, 40% are for severe cases of Malaria. 3.4% of the GDP of Tanzania is lost annually to Malaria. (I don’t really know what that means, but it can’t be good.)
Malaria is treatable with medication, but we all know about that ounce of prevention. That’s where the nets come in!
These are just a few of the over 100 bundles of nets being stored in my last house. They are heavy. I think they have 40 nets each. (I just made that up, but it seems right.)
And the great news is, nets work! Since 2000, Malaria death rates have decreased by 49% according to some estimates. In the last three to five years, 86% of people with access to nets, used them and used them correctly. The Carpenter’s Kids connection is that each child gets two malaria nets for his or her family, as part of the distribution of school supplies and uniforms.
This is the net on my new bed. It was more fun on vacation. Duh. My new friend Maria has made me paranoid (well- I can’t really blame her for that) about tucking the net in all around because the mbu (skeeters) can also live under the bed. Maybe someday I’ll find someone to video me getting into bed. Even without seeing the whole visual, I can bet it’s pretty funny.
Next I’ll post some pics of the children receiving their nets. It’s pretty great!