SUMMARY: The Malaria Free Zone Project is run by the organization AIDSfreeAfrica. Using expired bed nets, they construct window and door screens and fit these as mechanical barriers into homes and hospitals. These so called malaria free zones (MFZ) cover the entire house, not just the bed.
PROBLEM SPACE: Malaria is the primary cause of morbidity and mortality in Cameroon, particularly in small children. Ten years ago when AIDSfreeAFRICA started its work, only a few malaria cases were reported; today, 90% of people hospitalized receive advanced malaria treatment. The MFZ concept enhances existing malaria programs, which focus on hanging bed nets, access to malaria drugs, and chemical spraying. None of these focus on preventing the spread of the Malaria parasite to the mosquito population. This is why AIDSfreeAfrica wants to focus screening efforts first and foremost on hospitals where malaria patients are being treated. It is the sick patient that “gives” the parasite to the mosquito.
Aside from global warming, the increase in malaria could be exacerbated by increased access to electricity, as lighted rooms attract mosquitoes. People see the presence of mosquitoes as inevitable. Due to the hot climate, windows are typically just holes in the wall. Sparingly covered, they leave gaps for mosquitoes to enter. Therefore, mosquitoes are everywhere. Against their better judgment, most people hate sleeping under a bed net. They feel claustrophobic. Bed nets alone do not protect people from malaria, because the mosquitoes attack people if they get up from the bed at night for any reason. The additional protection provided by screens on windows and doors is necessary. These barriers can easily be constructed from expired bed nets, which become available in large quantities each time the Global Fund distributes new nets. Cameroon right now is receiving 10 million nets.
SOLUTION: The MFZ project has already been executed as a small-scale proof-of-concept program in three villages in Cameroon. Youth volunteers were trained to cut plywood to fit windows and doors with screens by recycling old mosquito nets. An installation is successful when no gaps are left for mosquitoes to slip through. To attract more volunteers, the project lead was invited to speak on “Morning Safari” a popular broadcast on Cameroon National Radio CRTV. As a result, the MFZ method was then adopted by Réseau de Synergies contre des Pathologies Tropicales (RESYPAT), an umbrella organization that works in collaboration with the Global Fund to train civil society organizers (CSOs). RESYPAT agreed to integrate MFZ into their teaching/sensitization work. The objective is for the program to be rolled out on the national level as soon as financial backing is obtained.
Advantages of MFZ: it is simple. Unemployed youth can be put to work immediately. It uses only recycled materials and buys locally. It PREVENTS sickness. It creates positive economic impact. It is designed to become self-sustainable, because it delivers a payable service.