Turning Crisis into Hope: Nothing But Nets and UN Refugee Agency Deliver More Than 1 Million Bed Nets to Protect Refugees from Malaria

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Preventable disease drops from number one killer of refugees to number five cause of death in five years thanks to life-saving bed nets that keep families safe from deadly mosquito bites.

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It is our responsibility to help refugees be self-reliant. We can turn this crisis into hope.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres recently reported on the escalating humanitarian crisis in South Sudan at a panel discussion at the United Nations Foundation, emphasizing the threat posed by both violence in the region and malaria, and lauding dramatic progress in the fight against the disease.

Guterres singled out the partnership between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign, a critical non-governmental contributor to UNHCR’s malaria prevention efforts. UNHCR and Nothing But Nets have collaborated for the past five years to put more than 1 million insecticide-treated nets into the hands of the most vulnerable families fleeing their homes due to conflict, famine, or drought. Risk of malaria transmission is especially potent now as the region moves into its extended rainy season.

“Nets distribution is an absolutely crucial aspect of this strategy” to eliminate malaria, Guterres said, adding that the partnership has produced significant results. Guterres said that the current focus of the UN Foundation and UNHCR must turn to South Sudan, where more than 130,000 refugees have fled violence along the border with Sudan. Malaria is the leading cause of death for children five and under in South Sudan. To meet this need, Nothing But Nets has launched a nationwide appeal to send 100,000 life-saving bed nets to help refugee families sleep safely.

A delegation of Nothing But Nets supporters will deliver these bed nets to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya later this month. With just a $10 donation, thousands of Americans have helped to send a net and save a life.

Guterres was joined by Elizabeth Gore, UN Foundation Vice President of Global Partnerships, David Abramowitz, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at Humanity United, and Thon Moses Chol, a former Sudanese refugee and current refugee advocate. Chol, a social worker, fled his homeland in 1987 and returned for the first time last year. “There is no development that can really arise in South Sudan without peace,” he said.

As the world’s newest nation in a region with highly prized oil resources, South Sudan faces “a huge humanitarian situation,” Guterres said. “Efforts must be made by the international community to make sure there is … peace between Sudan and South Sudan.”

Guterres called on leaders from the African Union, the European Union, the United States, China, and Russia to help establish productive dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan. “It is high time to end the suffering of the people,” Guterres said. Abramowitz echoed others’ comments on the gravity of the crisis in the region.

Guterres went on to explain that aid for refugees and displaced people must incorporate education, engagement, and empowerment.

“It is our responsibility to help refugees be self-reliant,” Chol said. “We can turn this crisis into hope.”

South Sudan, which became the world’s newest independent country in July 2011, is roughly the size of Texas. Now, families escaping fighting are moving into safer zones away from violence concentrated near the border. More than 130,000 refugees have fled fighting on the border of Sudan and South Sudan since last June; observers expect 75,000 more this year. Malaria is a leading cause of death among refugees and the number one cause of death of children under five in South Sudan. Bed nets are an easy, cost-effective tool to keep families safe.

To date, Nothing But Nets has raised over $40 million to distribute more than 6 million insecticide-treated nets to families throughout Africa. To learn more and to donate, visit http://www.NothingButNets.net

About Nothing But Nets
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the campaign that was created by the United Nations Foundation in 2006. Campaign partners include the National Basketball Association’s NBA Cares, the people of The United Methodist Church, and Major League Soccer’s MLS W.O.R.K.S. It only costs $10 to provide an insecticide-treated bed net that can prevent this deadly disease. Visit http://www.NothingButNets.net to send a net and save a life.

About The United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit http://www.unfoundation.org.

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Susannah Rosenblatt
United Nations Foundation
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