United States singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore helped hand out thousands of long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets in the Central African Republic (CAR) today as part of a United Nations-backed effort to curb malaria, a preventable disease which claims more than one million lives every year.
CAR has one of the highest childhood death rates worldwide and malaria is a main cause of illness and death.
Ms. Moore, an Ambassador for the non-governmental organization Population Services International (PSI), is visiting the nation in a trip led by the Nothing But Nets scheme, under which the UN Foundation (UNF) seeks to curb the spread of malaria by providing bed nets, each costing $10, to communities in greatest need.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) helped to make today’s distribution of nets possible.
“This week, I’ve met mothers who have lost children to malaria and worry daily about losing others,” Ms. Moore said. “It is life changing to be able to give them nets to protect their babies from malaria-carrying mosquitoes while they sleep.”
Malaria causes up to 500 million illnesses per year, with 10 new cases every second. It is particularly devastating in Africa, where a child dies every 30 seconds from the disease.
While in CAR, Ms. Moore met with families to learn first-hand about malaria’s devastating effects and the impact of mosquito nets.
She helped the country’s Ministry of Health and UN partners hang the nets and educate families on how to use them.
“We’re on our way to reaching our goal of delivering a net to every family in CAR by the end of the year,” Ms. Moore said, stressing that “together, we can cover the country.”
To date, Nothing But Nets has helped distribute more than 3.5 million bed nets in 25 countries across Africa.
Malaria is also the number one killer of refugees in Africa, and the campaign is working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to send urgently-needed nets to more than one million refugees in 15 countries.
Earlier this week, a senior UN official said that despite the tough global economy, new commitments by governments give hope that deaths from malaria can be eliminated by the target date of 2015.
“With these kinds of commitments, the fact that we can see our way to the finishing line in 2015 to end deaths from malaria could be one of those major, major stories of… the early 21st century,” Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert Orr told a news briefing in New York.
He cited major increases in commitments already made by France, Canada, Norway and Japan to the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ahead of its replenishment conference, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will chair in New York next week, and a United Kingdom pledge to triple its malaria funding to £500 million by 2014.