A simple solution to save lives

Helping 6.2 million Pakistanis to prevent malaria and stay healthy

WFP Asia & Pacific
Jan 17, 2019 · 4 min read

Muzamil is just 3 years old and he has already survived a life-threatening illness.

He was sick with a high fever for a week before he was diagnosed with malaria. If not treated immediately, this illness can be fatal. After he was diagnosed, his family were forced to act quickly.

Muzamil has now recovered and is back to his normal self. Photo: WFP/Mahira Afzal

“My husband is a daily wager and earns 300/- to 400/- Rs. (less than USD $4 a day). There are days when he cannot find any work in the nearby town which makes it difficult for us to feed our family,” said Shaheed BB, Muzamil’s mother. With limited financial resources, his parents were forced to take out a loan to buy medicines and pay for his care.

Growing up in a remote village in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Muzamil’s family live far from the nearest hospital. One case of malaria in their family of 7 children is not only life-threatening for the child, but forces this family further into poverty and reduces the money they have available to buy healthy food.

But they aren’t alone. During the rainy and post-monsoon seasons, malaria cases in Pakistan spike. Each year, more than one million estimated cases and 300,000 validated ones are reported; which places the country alongside Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia as having some of the highest rates of infection in the world.

In Pakistan, a range of factors combine to make families highly vulnerable to malaria. Poor socio-economic conditions, frequent natural disasters, poor antenatal care and mass population movements within the country and across the border of Iran and Afghanistan mean that families are at high risk year after year.

A simple solution that can save lives

Long lasting insecticidal mosquito nets have played a key role in reducing malaria in Pakistan over the past decade. They are one of the safest and most cost-effective ways for families to stay healthy.

Between 2009–15, the Government of Pakistan distributed more than 4.7 million nets across the parts of the country with the highest malaria levels, and are working towards universal coverage in the hardest-hit areas. However, despite efforts, the overall coverage has been low and usage rates among high risk groups such as pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five remained significantly low.

To distribute nets and to ensure families use them correctly, the Directorate of Malaria, with funding from The Global Fund partnered with the World Food Programme and Indus Hospital to carry out a mass distribution of long lasting insecticidal mosquito nets.

3.1 million nets = changed lives across Pakistan

WFP has been working closely with the Government of Pakistan since 1968 and was chosen to distribute more than 3.1 million nets to families in 12 districts. This will benefit more than 6.2 million people who are some of the most at-risk of contracting this life-threatening illness.

WFP has extensive experience in carrying out mass distributions in Pakistan and has high standards of supply chain management, warehouse storage and management, logistics support, commodity tracking, along with a robust mechanism of community engagement and beneficiary feedback.

For families like Muzamil’s, these nets will make a huge difference to their daily lives. “As the health care services are expensive in our area, precaution is better than cure. It can be hot and humid to sleep inside the house, therefore we sleep under open sky which make us more prone to mosquito attacks. Using the nets will protect us from the mosquito bite which may otherwise lead to life-threatening malaria and expensive medical treatment,” Shaheed BB, Muzamil’s mother.

Given the successful execution of the project in the first round by the Supply Chain unit, WFP looks forward to partnering with the Government of Pakistan to support the expansion of the project to additional districts in 2019.

Story written by Mahira Afzal

Read more about WFP’s work in Pakistan

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