SurfAid International today announced the launch of the Malaria Free Mentawai program, the largest initiative in the seven-year history of the humanitarian aid organisation.
The Mentawai Island chain, which lies off West Sumatra, Indonesia, has a population of approximately 70,000 people. Up to 50 per cent of people carry the malaria parasite at any one time and it is responsible for many deaths and extensive suffering. Malaria weakens the immune system, turning other common illnesses, like diarrhea and chest infections, into killers.
Research by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) shows that 53 per cent of Mentawai families have lost at least one child to illness before they reach the age of 12. SurfAid International Medical Director and Founder, Dr Dave Jenkins, said the launching of the Malaria Free Mentawai campaign was the culmination of much hard work over the past five years.
“This campaign is a major step towards fulfilling our dreams to get every child and adult in the Mentawai Islands sleeping under the new, long-lasting insecticide nets that will save many lives and prevent extreme human suffering,” Dr Jenkins said. “This was a vision shared by the head of the Mentawai Health Department, Dr Ifdil Gusti, and myself when SurfAid started seven years ago.”
Dr Jenkins said the project represented a great example of the power of partnerships. “With the co-operation of the health department and UNICEF, and project funding from NZAID, Billabong and Lonely Planet, we have begun a multi-year project to control malaria throughout the entire 203 villages in the Mentawai,” he said.