“They came to the neighbouring village. They killed many people there, robbed and burned the houses. That’s why we left our village.”
Yongou and her family left their home and all their belongings two years ago when Boko Haram attacked a nearby village. Now they live in a camp for internally displaced people in Lake Chad.
It is a familiar story for many living in Chad. As a result of conflicts in neighbouring countries and the ensuing crisis in the Lake Chad region, the country now hosts over half a million refugees, internally displaced people and returnees.
For these vulnerable populations, the upcoming rainy season now poses a new threat. Malaria is the leading cause of death in the country, with children under the age of five and pregnant women the most affected.
“Every year here, my children get malaria,” Yongou explained. “I have to bring them to the hospital.”
Over 97 percent of the population are at risk of contracting the disease and of the 800,000 confirmed cases reported in 2016, more than 44 percent were children under the age of five. Nine percent were pregnant women. Lake Chad islanders like Yongou and her family also face increased risk as the region is one of the most malaria affected regions in the country.
“During the rainy season, it’s full of mosquitos here. There are so many that we have to push them away with our hands,” explained MBokoye, the Yakoua village chief. “People don’t have enough mosquito nets, so we have to bring back some wood to make a fire so the smoke will chase away the mosquitoes.”
With just one mosquito net for her entire family, Yongou has been struggling to take the precautions needed to keep her loved ones safe. “Our mosquito net has many holes. When it is torn, I sew it with a needle and thread,” she explained.
To ensure families like Yongou’s are protected when the rains arrive, UNDP and the Global Fund are supporting the government of Chad to carry out a massive bednet distribution campaign across the country. 13 million people will soon be reached with long-lasting insecticidal nets in some of the hardest-to-reach and conflict-affected regions of Chad.
Nets have been distributed across more than 4000 sites and 2 million households and 25,000 people from local communities have been recruited and trained to help identify those most in need and the most effective distribution locations.The challenging context, including an infrastructure gap, has required a collaborative approach, with UNDP working closely with partners including the World Food Programme (WFP). The distributions are also supported by an awareness raising campaign to ensure people understand how to correctly use the bednets and to dispel any myths or rumours about the benefits and safety of sleeping under the nets.
These messages are relayed by religious leaders across denominations throughout the country. Around 180 of them were trained by UNDP and the National Malaria Control Program to deliver awareness messages during their preaching. 30,000 copies of an information sheet detailing The 10 Golden Rules against malaria were distributed in Arabic and French to imams, priests, pastors and other religious leaders of the country to facilitate their work.
While the number of new malaria cases has fallen globally, millions of people continue to be left behind. In 2015 one child died from malaria every two minutes and sub-Saharan Africa was home to 90% of malaria cases and 92% of malaria deaths. In Chad, malaria continues to harm all aspects of human development efforts.
“A person who has malaria can’t go to work, a child who has malaria can’t go to school” explained Doctor Djiddi Ali Sougoudi, Coordinator for the National Programme against malaria. “Malaria is one of the reasons for Africa's lack of development,” he adds.
The UNDP-managed Global Fund grant for malaria in Chad will run until June 2018 and aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in both malaria morbidity and mortality.