• SurfAid Reaches Major Milestone in Malaria Campaign

SurfAid International has achieved a major milestone by completing its mosquito net distribution and malaria education program in the Mentawai Island chain, off Indonesia’s West Sumatran coast. Since March 2007, SurfAid’s Malaria Free Mentawai program has reached 61,465 villagers - nearly 90 per cent of the 70,000 population - in some extremely remote areas.

Specialised SurfAid teams transported the nets up rivers by dugout canoe and hauled them through dense jungle to reach many of the isolated communities.  The teams would sleep in the villages to roll out their education program, distribute the nets to each household and conduct parasite testing.

Since the inception of the SurfAid malaria program in 2000, SurfAid has now delivered 58,517 specially treated mosquito nets and malaria education to more than 300 villages in the Mentawai and Nias islands, which includes emergency relief work after the 2004 tsunami and the 2005 Nias earthquake.

The founder and CEO of SurfAid, Dr Dave Jenkins, praised the hard work of the specially trained SurfAid malaria team. “The completion of the net distribution in the Mentawai to more than 206 villages in the past two years is literally a dream come true for the founders of SurfAid,” Dr Jenkins said.

“When we started we were aware that in malaria-infested areas like the Mentawai, getting people educated and sleeping under these new, long-lasting insecticide nets is a guaranteed way of saving lives and greatly reducing human suffering. The problem with any program of this scope is funding, logistics and a willingness to take the risks.”

Dr Jenkins said the Mentawai villages are some of the most remote and dangerous villages in the world to run any kind of program.

“I'm immensely proud of our teams who faced many challenges and burdens along the way. Their effort and the long-term commitment to fund this program from NZAID, Billabong, the United World College of South East Asia, Lonely Planet and World Swim Against Malaria, with the cooperation of the Mentawai Health Department, is yet another example of the power of partnerships,” he said.

Besides distributing more than 27,000 nets to nearly 18,000 households in the past two years, SurfAid teams also conducted more than 13,000 parasite tests and nearly 1,000 KAP (Knowledge, Attitude, Practice) surveys.

Dr Jenkins said SurfAid took a step-by-step approach to combating the scourge of malaria in the Mentawai by starting in one village, then extending to six as the teams learnt the best methods of imparting malaria education and getting the communities engaged.

The education program, which includes a series of well-rehearsed dramas and other participatory training, is aimed at ensuring all community members understand the causes of malaria, recognise the symptoms, understand the treatment options and know about breaking the lifecycle - by using nets and keeping communities free of standing water.

“We then decided to roll out the program to nearly every Mentawai village after learning how to rapidly teach communities about malaria using cutting edge behaviour change techniques combined with efficient systems,” Dr Jenkins said.

“Over time we have seen that a commitment to measuring your progress and refining your strategy can pay great dividends to both the beneficiaries and to our donors.  Now we are extending this system to Nias Island and we are creating lasting change in other much needed areas such as nutrition, hygiene, clean water, and pregnancy and birthing.

“To all those involved I wish to send a big congratulation on a great result and to extend our deepest appreciation for your contributions.  I hope and trust you will remain our committed partners as we begin to extend and reach out to more needy communities,” Dr Jenkins said.