He entreated the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other line Ministries to continue to work closely with international partners, NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders in order to reach the target groups, reminding all that the campaign is part of the second phase of the Recovery Priorities for Health.
Vice President Foh informed his audience that progress has been made in the first phase and that still work needs to be done in strengthening the health sector, adding that in preventing future epidemics and in saving at least 600 women and 5000 children from preventable deaths, government has included the special needs of over 4000 Ebola Survivors across the country.
He reiterated that owing to the heightened concern about the welfare of women and children and the desire to support the global effort to eliminate malaria, the government of Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma through the Ministry of Health will be distributing over 4.3 million free Long Lasting Insecticide Treated Nets to every household in the country.
The Vice President disclosed that the major objective of the campaign is to move Sierra Leone towards Universal Coverage by ensuring that eighty percent of people sleep under insecticide treated nets. He said the distribution will be done in every district, chiefdom, section, village on a house to house basis, and encouraged all to use the opportunity to increase community awareness about key family care practices.
He informed the gathering that as part of the package for this year, more than one million children under the age of five will receive healthy and nutritious interventions including Vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets.
Dr. Foh noted that, the success of the campaign depends on the appropriate use of these nets and the use of other services provided, adding that the bed nets are not for sale or used as fishing nets but must be used for the purpose for which they are provided.
He instructed the law enforcement agencies to ensure that anyone caught selling or buying the particular brand of nets or supplements or using them for any other purpose face the full force of the law.
The Health and Sanitation Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah underscored the importance of the campaign and the need for the effective use of the bed nets to prevent children under five and pregnant women from malaria.
He appealed to the public to sleep inside the mosquito bed nets other than using it for fishing, goal post and selling as bathing sponge (Sapo), and thanked partners including DFID, Global Fund, UNICEF, WHO and others for their support in making the campaign successful.
Dr. Fofanah spoke about the introduction of the National Emergency Medical Services (NEMS), an Ambulance services which will commence soon to reduce infant and maternal deaths in the country, and expressed gratitude to staff of the Health Ministry for their hard work.
Head of DFID Sierra Leone, Sally Taylor said UK is globally committed to seeing a malaria free world and is investing 500 million Pounds a year for the next five years to address the scourge.
Dilating on UK’s support for Sierra Leone’s health sector, the Head of DFID said UK new Saving Lives Programme amounting to 150 million pounds from 2016-2021 is directly aligned and supports the Presidents Recovery Priorities for health, aims to save the lives of pregnant women, new mothers and young children.
She disclosed that her organization is currently upgrading eight (8) Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Clinics (EmONC) across the country, noting that the new and improved facilities will help improve access and quality of health care for Sierra Leoneans.
Sally Taylor stated that DFID fully support the government’s efforts to protect Sierra Leoneans against malaria and have contributed 5.7 million pounds to procure half of the bed nets being distributed across the country during the campaign.
UNICEF Representative Geoff Wiffin said the mosquito net mass distribution campaign is conducted every three years in Sierra Leone, adding that the last one was conducted in 2014.
He commended the Ministry of Health for the huge success recorded in the past during similar interventions, pointing out that in 2014 the Ministry distributed 3.5 million bed nets to over 95 percent of the households in Sierra Leone.
The UNICEF Representative said despite the gains, the burden of malaria in Sierra Leone still remains unacceptably high, stating that the Malaria Indicator Survey 2016 shows that 40 percent of under-five children have malaria every year.
WHO Representative, Dr. Anders Nordstrom described malaria as one of Sierra Leone’s most deadly diseases, adding that WHO has estimated that 5000 children under five lose their lives in the country every year due to malari.
He pledged UN’s support to other activities under the Mamie en Pikin Welbodi Week which include promoting life-saving vaccine for children under five years of age, Vitamin A supplementation, as well as deworming medicines to keep children healthy and strong.
Dr. Nordstrom reiterated that over recent years in Sierra Leone they have seen substantive progress in reaching children with life-saving interventions during previous campaigns with 90 percent recorded coverage last year for the major immunizations.
He assured of UN Country Team support to protect people from the devastating impacts of malaria, promote and increase access to vaccines and strengthen health services towards saving women and children’s lives.
Statements were also heard by the NGO Representative, Madam Bernadette Udo, Chairman, Country Coordinating Mechanism, Rev. Alimamy Kargbo, and an overview of the campaign by the Programme Manager, National Malaria Control Programme, Dr. Samuel Juana Smith.
A skit depicting the theme of the programme was done by Restless Development Drama Group, followed by a symbolic presentation of a bed net to a beneficiary by Vice President and a conducted tour of the various booths.