|Nets distribution campaign kicks off in Côte d’Ivoire|
United Methodist Bishops Benjamin Boni (left) of
Côte d'Ivoire and Janice Riggle Huie of Texas (center) help distribute
mosquito nets in Alepe, Côte d'Ivoire on Nov. 11. UMNS photos by Mike
By Tim Tanton*
Nov. 12, 2008 | ALEPE, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
This is the first month in a long time that Diakite’ Aichata has not
had to take one of her children to the hospital because of malaria.
The 20-year-old mother was among thousands of parents who waited in line
Nov. 11 so that her two children could each receive a bed net that
would protect them from mosquitoes, which carry malaria. The line
outside one of two distribution stations in Alepe Town began forming at 6
a.m. and was still long by mid-afternoon.
Sita Sangare, 4, clutches the insecticide-treated mosquito net she
received after getting a
The scene was repeated around Côte d’Ivoire with the launch of an
integrated health campaign. In addition to the insecticide-treated nets,
each child received a vaccination against measles, a dose of vitamin A
and a de-worming tablet.
Aichata’s 6-month-old baby and 4-year-old toddler were not happy with
getting the shots, and their screams of dismay coalesced with those of
other small children under the distribution tent. However, Aichata was
pleased, particularly with the net.
“I’m happy because it’s free,” she said in French, speaking through an interpreter.
United Methodists from the Côte d’Ivoire and Texas annual conferences
joined with partners from the United Nations Foundation, the Ivoirian
Ministry of Health and other organizations in kicking off the campaign
in the West African country. The campaign will distribute more than 1
million bed nets to children, and it aims to provide the shots, vitamins
and tablets to all 3.2 million Ivoirian children between the ages of 9
months and 59 months.
Town turns out
The kick-off ceremony, held at a high point on the main street into
town, had a festive air with music and a performance by traditional
dancers. Teachers led schoolchildren in groups to the gathering and
large tents on the roadside sheltered local tribal chieftains, medical
workers, government officials, and volunteer workers from the Texas and
Côte d’Ivoire conferences. Other onlookers stood by.
The United Methodist bishops of Côte d’Ivoire and the Texas Conference
sat with other dignitaries in large pieces of furniture under the head
tent. Bishop Benjamin Boni of Côte d’Ivoire gave the opening blessing.
Later, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of Texas brought a word of thanks and
encouragement on behalf of the church.
Mothers and young children wait
in line for mosquito nets.
“We have been looking forward to this day for a very long time,” Huie
said. She described how, two years ago, she and Boni talked with the
U.N. Foundation about the possibilities of preventing malaria among the
people of Côte d’Ivoire.
Other speakers included representatives from the mayor’s office, the
national Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“This is the first time such a big event has taken place in Côte
d’Ivoire,” said Dr. Komla Siamevi, the World Health Organization’s
country representative in Côte d’Ivoire, speaking in French.
The nets will protect pregnant women and children under 5, who are
most vulnerable to malaria, he said. The measles vaccinations will
protect the children against a disease that kills 30 million people a
year – 60 percent of them Africans, he said. The vitamin A will help the
children’s eyesight and make them more robust, and the de-worming
tablets will fight intestinal parasites, he said.
Symbolic first net
After the ceremony, the bishops presented a net to Anne-Aurore Nanan
Tikoichi, the 11-month-old baby of Rosalie Amoakoa Atta. The mother and
child were in the eye of a storm under the distribution tent, as other
parents and children thronged the tables and members of the media closed
quarters for photos and footage.
Dr. Marcel Koffi Koumi, director of the cabinet for the minister of
health, administered a measles vaccination to baby Anne-Aurore, then
tossed the crying baby into the air and caught her. Huie removed a blue
net from its packaging and handed it to Atta, and she and Boni
congratulated the mother.
Atta was glad to receive the net. “It will protect my child from a lot
of diseases,” she said, speaking in French. “My heart is warm. I feel
warmth in my heart.”
Bishop Huie presents the symbolic first mosquito net to 11-month-old
Anne-Aurore Nanan Tikoihi.
The kickoff ceremony for the campaign represented the culmination of
months of work for the various partners. The Côte d’Ivoire and Texas
conferences focused on the distribution of the nets, in cooperation with
partners such as Population Services International, the Ivoirian
Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Control Program, United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries and its United Methodist Committee on Relief
agency, and United Methodist Communications, among several others.
Huie, whose conference raised more than $1 million for Nothing But
Nets – an anti-malaria campaign involving the United Nations Foundation,
United Methodist Church and other partners – is part of a 35-person
Texas delegation that has come to Côte d’Ivoire to help with the nets
distribution. Money raised through Nothing But Nets – a total of $20
million so far – paid for 85 percent of the nets that are being
distributed, according to a press release from the initiative.
The bishop said she felt the presence of the people of her conference when she gave the net to Atta.
“It was really an extraordinary moment to give the first net, and to
give it to a crying baby is probably a sign …,” she said with a laugh.
“Right now, God’s mercy and grace are in the form of a long-lasting,
insecticide-treated bed net.”
Boni and Huie later worked in one of the Alepe distribution stations alongside some of the Texas and Côte d’Ivoire volunteers.
“We have come to express the love of God,” Boni said afterward. “God
will love our souls. God will love our bodies. God will love us in Jesus
Information on Nothing But Nets and the campaign is available at www.umc.org/nets.
*Tanton is director of the Media Group for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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