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Closing in on malaria: Youth help Spread the Net around the globe

There’s a buzz flying around the world due to malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, but the source might not be what you think. Schools across the globe are spreading the word and helping Spread the Net to squash malaria and save lives – and it’s generating huge results!

How can such a tiny insect be causing such a BIG problem around the world?

Ask youth involved in Plan initiatives and they’ll tell you it’s because over half the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria from infected mosquitoes – and just one bite could be lethal.

Though treatable and preventable, malaria is a potentially deadly disease, especially for pregnant women and children under the age of 5. It’s one of the leading causes of death in children – claiming the life of 50 children an hour, or nearly 1 child per minute.

Just 1 inexpensive bed net can protect 2 people for up to 3 years.

Canadian youth have been tackling these troubling statistics through the Spread the Net Student Challenge. Since 2007 they’ve raised 1.4 million dollars to purchase insecticide-treated bed nets and related training for families in affected areas, including parts of Africa, where over 90% of deaths from malaria occur. In fact, this year alone, 102 schools across Canada answered the call and took part.

Rick Mercer and Kew beach school celebrate their win.

The 500 students of Kew Beach Junior Public School in Toronto (with Rick Mercer at left) had a sweet take on fundraising, using candygrams to generate $8,000!

But it isn’t just Canadian schools getting involved in malaria awareness. Thanks to the support of our donors, youth across Plan-supported communities in at-risk areas are now empowered to take their health into their own hands. Newly-armed with vital information and bed nets, they’re spreading the message across their communities – bringing awareness and helping save more lives and stop a killer in its path.

3 girls from Zimbabwe with a malaria awareness sign.

Girls from a Plan-supported school in Zimbabwe attend a malaria awareness event. See more photos of these malaria-fighting youth advocates!

Since 2007, Spread the Net has protected more than 7.2 million people by delivering 2.5 million malaria-preventing bed nets to families in Africa.

And it’s making a difference…

Plan supported the distribution of 7.6 million long-lasting, insecticide bed nets in Burkina Faso – a ratio of one net for every 2 people.

“The free distribution of insecticide nets, which was also accompanied by practical tips so beneficial to us. We followed the advice to the letter – so we see the impact … All my family members have committed to their nets. We are now free from malaria,” says Ousséni, 65, of Burkina Faso.

And in one Guinea community 45% of nearly 11,000 residents were reached by Plan’s distribution and promotion of bed nets.

"I am now in the habit of using the mosquito net with my child when sleeping,” says Konde, who lives in the community. “Every day, I realize how it is beneficial for both of us. If it tears or becomes damaged, I'll try to get one another,” she adds.

"The distribution of mosquito nets and the advice given to mothers has had positive effect,” confirms Balizia, who manages the local health centre. “We have seen a drop of nearly 70% in cases for consultation on malaria [within the span of less than a year]. These actions prove that prevention is better than cure, the campaign should continue.”

Since 2000, increased prevention and control measures – like the use of long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets – have led to nearly 50% less deaths caused by malaria around the world (WHO), proving that overcoming malaria is possible and we’re on the right track to make it happen.

But we’re not there yet.

“Considerable progress has been made in the fight against malaria but there’s still much work to do to eradicate this disease in West African countries in order to give children, their families and their communities a fair chance at life,” says Plan West Africa’s Regional Director Adama Coulibaly – a task that has been made considerably more challenging since the Ebola Outbreak, which has severely strained resources in the region.

Unfortunately, every year there are still 200 million cases of malaria, resulting in close to 600,000 malaria-related deaths, but you can help reduce this number to zero.

Join the fight against malaria today.