CONGO: Train hosts two-day anti malaria drive

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Across jungles, hills and savannah, a train hired by the Congolese government and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) delivered 300,000 impregnated mosquito nets as it chugged along railroads from Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic coast to the capital Brazzaville.

Reaching remote health centres in areas where medical services are limited, the train left Pointe Noir on 9 August and headed along the Congo-Océan railway towards the south-western town of Dolisie, the third city of Congo.

Another batch was delivered to Nkayi town to benefit people living in Lékoumou and Bouenza areas, as the train continued its two-day journey.

"Distribution will be done in the health centres to any child under six years old and to any woman who comes for a prenatal consultation," said Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Family, Emilienne Raoul.

Organisers of the trip said the distribution of nets was linked to a national vaccination campaign due to be launched in October, and to the promotion of maternal health programmes.

The train covered areas where various wars in the 1990s destroyed much of the health infrastructure.

"Giving an impregnated mosquito net to a mother means saving many lives,"

Viviane Moukouyou, a 35-year old resident of Dolisie said as the train arrived in her town to deliver another share of the Japanese-government donated nets.

Killer disease

Malaria remains the first cause of mortality among children aged five or under in the Congo, according to health experts. It is also a leading cause of poor school attendance and is responsible for 50 percent of hospital admissions.

"Impregnated mosquito nets reduce mortality and other malaria-related problems among children," said Koen Vanormelingen, UNICEF representative in Congo. "I encourage partners in the private sector to contribute to this campaign."

While nets are an effective deterrent against malaria, at Fcfa 5,500 (around US$11) each, they are too expensive for most Congolese people, who live on less than a dollar a day.

The current campaign will be boosted by an additional 200,000 nets donated by the United States.

Source: IRIN
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