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Hawa, a mother of seven, lost her first child to malaria. Now, thanks to the distribution of insecticide treated bed nets in her village of Sabonkafi, Niger, in April of 2009, she and her children sleep under the net every night. Since that time, none of her children have gotten malaria. Photo: Lane HartillHow CRS is helping to fight malaria in Niger

The West African country of Niger has the world’s highest infant mortality rate. One child in four does not reach their fifth birthday, often because of malaria, one of the leading causes of death and illness for both children and adults.

In 2007 CRS worked with local partners and the government to design a program to prevent the further spread of malaria. With generous assistance from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, CRS launched the SANGUE project in 2008 with the goal of ensuring that by 2012 at least 80% of children under five years of age and pregnant women are sleeping under a Long Lasting Insecticide-treated Net (LLIN). To reach this goal, the project has been distributing treated nets, using multi-media to promote its benefits and reinforcing the skills of local partners to manage the project. In addition to being an acronym for the project, "SANGUE" means mosquito in one of the common local languages.

Within this five-year program, CRS is working hand in hand with the Ministry of Public Health’s National Malaria Control Program, Caritas Niger (CADEV), the National Organization for Sustainable Development (VALPRO) and the National Organization of Innovative Educators (ONEN). As a major component of the project, CRS directs resources to build the capacity of the four local agencies from both the government and non-governmental sectors.

In its role as Principal Recipient, CRS carried out an organizational assessment of each agency, identified their weaknesses and, jointly with the partner, developed a management improvement plan to help reinforce areas of weaknesses and fill in gaps in knowledge and skills. 

CRS assisted each organization to recruit qualified and talented professionals in the areas of project management, monitoring and evaluation, communication, financial management and accounting, supply chain management and malaria.  Moreover, as a result of the project resources, all partners participated in the baseline surveys, design of the communication strategy and planning for the LLIN distribution.  These exercises allowed local partners to share their own knowledge of the country and learn the steps in strategy development and supply chain management as well as survey design and analysis.  The project provided training for each level of staff; for example, finance staff responsible for budgets and financial management participated in six on-site workshops in the first phase of the project.  All partner staff participated in training on Global Fund policies and procedures to understand the donor expectations such as monitoring implementation, tracking project indicators and reporting results to demonstrate impact.  In particular, partners learned a new computerized inventory management system used to track and report on the distribution of the LLINs up to the household level.  Project staff followed learning modules on monitoring and evaluation and accounting as well.

Partners also received equipment such as vehicles, motorcycles, computers and a new financial accounting software package to more effectively carry out their work and strengthen their institution.  Now staff at all levels – national; district, health center and village are participating in the design of the multi-media communication to pass messages to children, caregivers and other community members about how to prevent the spread of malaria.  The project is making good use of widely available radio and television to broadcast episodes describing the use and benefits of sleeping under a bednet. At the district level, local Niger partners organize showings of videos on how to fight malaria and community groups developed skits and songs to spread the word in the villages.

Partners worked closely with CRS to distribute close to 2.7 million nets at more than 7,000 sites, reaching the most remote corners of the country in April 2009.  Today more than 78% of all homes have at least one bednet. Nevertheless, only 56% of all children sleep under those nets, indicating that much more work needs to be done.  CRS and its partners will work diligently over the next three years to promote the consistent use of bednets to change people’s attitudes and further reduce mortality and morbidity due to malaria.