Eritrea Winning the Malaria War Without Vaccines

Development News

… via old fashioned barefoot doctors distributing and maintaining insecticide treated mosquito nets.

Elaberid Community hospital workers in Eritrea impregnating blue mosquitoes nets with permethrin, a chemical product, used to prevent people from malaria infection. Malaria prevalence reduced by 90% nationwide and 98% at regional level. (© 2006 Didier Ruef)

By Thomas C Mountain,

For over 10 years now Eritrea, a small country in East Africa, has been winning the Malaria War without vaccines, though much work remains to be done. Since 2005, I have been monitoring the reduction in Malaria mortality here in Eritrea and have seen a consistent reduction of between 70-80%, something almost unknown in Africa and the rest of the 3rd world for such an extended period.

Eritrea’s victories in the Malaria War have been done via old fashioned barefoot doctors distributing and maintaining insecticide treated mosquito nets through out the malaria belt in Eritrea.

Many countries have handed out millions of insecticide treated mosquito nets donated by the likes of the World Bank (51% owned by the USA) only to see the insecticide wear off in 3 months and the nets loose more than half their effectiveness.

If you have ever slept under mosquito nets for very long, you will find that sooner or later you end up with a hole in the net or touching the net while sleeping. It only takes a couple of minutes for that nasty critter Aegypti species to smell you out, work its way through the hole or bite you right through the net and voila, you got malaria. Only treated nets prevent this with the insecticide keeping the mosquitos from getting near the net.

So you have to re-treat your mosquito nets every three months to keep winning the malaria war, something Eritrea has been fighting to do for over a decade now. Here in Eritrea, if the people in the malaria belt don’t bring their nets in for treatment every three months, the barefoot doctors go to them and make sure it gets done. This commitment to basic public health is a hallmark of a socialist country and Eritrea, like Cuba, is at the forefront in doing so despite limited resources.

The other major advance Eritrea has led Africa in is the development of a community network of clinics that can diagnose and provide the right medicine for the type of malaria afflicting the patient.

There is presently a network of clinics such that most of the people in the malaria belt can reach one within 3 hours by foot.

It isn’t complicated and doesn’t take an expensive vaccine or continously less effective prophylactics with nasty side effects, just old fashioned public health, like in barefoot doctors winning the malaria war in Eritrea.

It is long past time that the bureaucrats with their fat salaries sitting behind desks at the World Health Organization offices in Geneva, Switzerland started to recognize this. To win the Malaria War, instead of pushing expensive vaccines, they should be pushing barefoot doctors, a program proven to work for over a decade now here in Eritrea.

Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea since 2006. You can follow his speeches, interviews and articles at Facebook at thomascmountain or contact him via email thomascmountain at g mail dot com