THE BLOG
07/31/2012 09:10 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

Creating Change, One Bed Net At A Time

Did you know that every day roughly 350 children in Uganda alone die of malaria?

Uganda has made the news recently for an outbreak of Ebola. This is horrible and I wish there was something I could do to help! According to the BBC, 14 people have died in western Uganda so far, but the disease is spreading. There is no cure for Ebola.

I was reading through some of the symptoms of Ebola and was not entirely shocked to realize they were very similar to the symptoms of malaria: fever, weakness, headache, vomiting and death. I had to stop to wonder why Ebola was receiving more media coverage than malaria. I understand the urgency both of these matters require. Ebola is a disease to cause great alarm in a community. However, Uganda has struggled with malaria for centuries. This is probably why the media does not focus on it. But malaria is still a pressing issue for the people that suffer from it.

Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda. Internationally, one child dies of malaria every 30 seconds.

Malaria can be prevented. It only takes about $10 to buy a malaria bed net to save a life. Malaria is caused by a parasite carried by the anopheles mosquito. This mosquito is only out from dusk until dawn. So with the use of a bed net, the mosquitoes can't get to the people to give them malaria.

NETwork Against Malaria (NETwork) is a national non-profit organization that my four sisters and I started five years ago. We raise funds to buy and distribute these nets in rural areas of Uganda. In areas where bednets are heavily used malaria transmission goes down by 95 percent in the entire region.

So far, we have distributed 12,650 malaria bednets. Because three children can sleep under each net, we have saved 37,950 lives. We are committed to making this number rise. Everyone can help stop malaria! Half of our mission is education for both the people in Uganda and America. Malaria will only be overcome when people understand the effects it has on the world.

NETwork has about 30,000 volunteers who are also committed to ending malaria. We host events of all kinds to help raise money and awareness.

I am reminded of a particular event hosted at a local library. It was in the earlier stages of the organization and our volunteer-leaders were nervous that the turnout would not be very good. We had organized a jewelry-making event. In the "learning room" in the basement of the building we hauled long card tables for our newest volunteers. We set up kits to help ensure they had the materials necessary to make our signature jewelry. The jewelry would be made and then sold to raise money for the nets. We were ready now for the newest members of our team to arrive. Even I was surprised by large number of people (over 300!) who rallied to help children halfway across the world! I will never forget the looks on the initial volunteers' faces because I think this was the first time they realized how they were helping to spread NETwork.
Our organization was built on the support and generosity of those in our volunteer communities across the country. I am always so grateful for them! We couldn't have made the difference we have without them!

To become involved to help fight malaria or to learn more about the disease check out: networkagainstmalaria.org.

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