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Bush Brings Anti-Malaria Aid to Africa


President Bush is the first sitting Republican president to visit sub-Saharan Africa. This week marks his second trip to the continent since taking office, and this time he is visiting five countries in a week-long visit. And President Bush has been welcomed with ceremonies full of music and dance, like this one yesterday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

(Soundbite of children singing)


STEWART: And with him, the President of the United States brought nets - 5.2 million free mosquito bed nets, which will be available to Tanzanians alone. It's all part of a U.S. aid package for Africa, 1.2 billion over five years, specifically to fight malaria across the continent.

Malaria kills 3,000 children in Africa each day. Now before we finish this segment, more than a dozen on the African children will have died from the disease if the U.N.'s calculations are correct, that a child dies every 30 seconds in Africa due to the parasites that come from simply a tiny mosquito bite.

Here to help us make sense of what this all means and what the U.S. is helping out with is the regional coordinator of the NetMark Project, Joseph Addo-Yobo. He joins us from Accra, Ghana, where he is preparing for official visits from first ladies of the United States and Ghana.

So Joseph, first of all, thank you for taking the time. It's such a busy time for you. And (foreign language spoken).

Mr. JOSEPH ADDO-YOBO (Regional coordinator, NetMark Project): Thank you very much.


STEWART: Did I manage to say welcome okay? Not too badly, I hope.

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Yeah, I'm actually surprised you go it right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Would you do us a favor and provide some context for us about how large the problem of malaria is in Ghana?

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Great. I think with your intro, you really created a background and a needed context for us to do the discussion, by narrowing it down to Ghana. In Ghana, malaria accounts for about 40 percent of all outpatient cases that are reported in public health facilities. In Ghana, also, according the latest statistics we have, about seven pregnant women die every day as a result of malaria. And 32 children die as a result of malaria, also, in Ghana. That's a lot to talk about in an economy which is more dependent on agriculture, and having lots of people suffering from malaria leads to a lack of productivity. For schoolchildren, it leads to absenteeism in school.

And in all, when we talk about the gross domestic product, the GDP, in the present the GDP grows according to the health economics to an extent of one percent every year. This is how fear of malaria is in Ghana.

STEWART: From what I've read so far, and please correct me if I'm wrong, prevention is one of the key ways to go after the malaria problem. Tell us what preventative measures your organization has tried to accomplish.

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Good. For my organization, in particular, that is NetMark, what we are trying to do is to scale up and build a sustainable connection market for the most-proven tool, which has been proven as the cost-effective tool in preventing malaria, according to the WHO, and the facts and evidence on the ground also supports that. And that tool is the provision of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets.

And my program, what we do in Ghana and in a number of other African countries, is to build sustainable connection markets and increase access to these insecticide-treated bed nets so that it will be able to cut down the morbidity and mortality of people when people use these nets. And it has been proven that when you use insecticide-treated nets, it is able to reduce all-cause mortality by over 25 percent. And it is able to reduce mortality and morbidity due to malaria to about 50 percent.

So those are some very proven tools that my organization is enhancing access to these products, educating the target population as to how to use this particular tool to prevent themselves from getting malaria.

STEWART: As I was reading up for this interview with you, I read articles dating back six or seven years that have discussed these malaria nets. So I'm wondering why it has taken so long for people to have them in their homes. Why doesn't everyone use them all the time if we know that they are so beneficial?

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Great. The basic thing is that, yes, it is a very hard change - it would be a very hard change program before the use of insecticide-treated nets - it would be a very hard change activity.

You have this malaria nets, or the long-lasting insecticide-treated nets, that people do not know about them. And now you are introducing people to them. You're carrying out educational programs for people to be educated about the benefits of this insecticide-treated bed nets. And then also, after people have access to these insecticide-treated bed nets, they need to be able to have that behavior of sleeping under this treated bed nets each and every night. And that is one of the (unintelligible). It would be a very hard change problem. And it takes a period of time for people to adopt the behavior and use it wisely.

The second point has been access to these nets. Yes, there's been financial barriers. Too, there's been production capacity for these nets. How many of the nets are provided? How many people are at risk to malaria? And how many get out there for people to use them in their homes?

So it is not just a problem of - or not an issue of, we've spoken about treated nets, people should get them and use it. Yes, the demand has been created. The education has been created. People are going through the demand - are going through the - it would be a very hard change process. Now we are insuring increased access in availability of this product, so that people would have access to these products and use these products all year round.

STEWART: Joseph Addo-Yobo, who is regional coordinator of NetMark.

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: (unintelligible)

STEWART: Joseph Addo-Yobo is a regional coordinator of the NetMark Project in Accra, Ghana. Joseph, thank you so much, and good luck with your preparation in anticipation of the first lady.

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Thank you. Thank you. And thanks for the opportunity to share that bit of work that we are doing out here in Ghana.

STEWART: Absolutely. Keep up the good work.

Mr. ADDO-YOBO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.