Millions of West Africans fall asleep at night to the buzzing of mosquitoes. They mummy themselves in bedsheets trying to escape the killers of the continent. But the Anopheles mosquitoes, Africa's most unwanted houseguests, are known for their persistence. They find their way to their hosts and make a meal out of them. The hosts are easy pickings when they're not under a mosquito net.
When the mosquito finds her victim, she does her deed and flies off, exchanging her deadly parasite for a dinner of blood. It's not a fair trade. The victim rolls over, scratches the bite and wonders if it will be the one that brings on palu: That's "malaria" in West Africa.
Contracting malaria means taking money meant for dinners and school fees and farming equipment and handing it to pharmacists for malaria medicine. It means staying home and waiting out the fever and chills and aches.
It ends in lost days of work, missed school and less money earned.
The answer: mosquito nets. Millions of them are needed. Catholic Relief Services and our partners recently delivered thousands of them in Guinea, a tropical country full of mosquitoes. And now families are sleeping soundly at night, ignoring their nightly visitors.
Lane Hartill is the western and central Africa regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services. He is based in Dakar, Senegal.