March 28, 2007 12:15 ET

UNICEF: Spread the Net Announces First Purchase of 33,000 Anti-Malarial Bed Nets for Liberia

Liberian President applauds Belinda Stronach, Rick Mercer and UNICEF Canada's Nigel Fisher for Spread the Net initiative

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 28, 2007) -

Attention Assignment Editors, Health Editors, Bureau Chiefs, Photo Editors, Africa Desks, Entertainment Editors

An order of 33,000 anti-malarial bed nets is being placed to protect children Spread the Net Co-Founders Belinda Stronach, Rick Mercer and Nigel Fisher, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada announced today. The shipment will significantly increase the number of Liberian children under the age of five sleeping under the life-saving nets.

Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in Gatineau to deliver the keynote address at the Canada 2020 Conference, applauded the announcement and encouraged even more Canadians to help Liberia in its fight against malaria.

"Malaria is the number one killer of children in Africa, and the number one killer of children under five in Liberia. These bed nets will make a tremendous difference in increasing the number of children protected from malaria-carrying mosquitoes while they sleep", said President Johnson Sirleaf. "Spread the Net is a tremendous initiative and I thank everyone who has given so far.

In Liberia, malaria accounts for 50 per cent of all illnesses in children under the age of five and more than 16,000 children under five die from the disease each year. The 33,000 nets will provide protection for tens of thousands of children. However, with a total under-five population of 631,000, many more nets are needed to provide complete coverage.

"Spread the Net is a grassroots effort and we are off to a great start with this purchase of 33,000 bed nets for Liberia", said Belinda Stronach, MP (Newmarket -Aurora) and Co-Founder of Spread the Net. "From school children and church groups to community groups, we are encouraging people to make a difference in the battle against malaria - 1 Net. 10 Bucks. Save Lives - it's a simple way to help prevent malaria in children in Africa".

"Mosquito season is on its way to Canada - mosquitoes drive us nuts, but they don't kill us. In Africa - they bite people and infect them with malaria while they are sleeping", said Rick Mercer, Co-Founder of Spread the Net. "Here's a plan - every time you whack a mosquito - go online to SpreadtheNet.org and help cover African children with a $10 bed net so they won't get bitten. We're on our way to our goal of 500,000 nets, but we need your help to get there".

Said Nigel Fisher, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada: "Buying a net is a very direct and effective way for Canadians to protect children from sickness and death. We are particularly proud to be able to support President Johnson Sirleaf government's work to save children's lives."

Every year there are between 350 and 500 million cases of malaria in the world - the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, and most of those among children. Malaria is the largest single cause of death among African children less than five years of age, claiming more than one million young lives every year. Those who survive the infection can still face severe life-long debilitation. . Insecticide-treated bed nets are hung over beds to keep out malarial mosquitoes. They are an inexpensive and highly effective tool for preventing the spread of malaria. When properly used, bed nets can reduce malaria transmission by up to 50 per cent and deaths of children by 20 per cent.

Spread the Net is an innovative partnership with UNICEF Canada with the goal of helping prevent the spread of malaria among African children by raising the funds to purchase 500,000 insecticide-treated bed nets at the cost of $10 each over the next two years. For each donation to Spread the Net, you can request that UNICEF Canada send you a funky Spread the Net recognition card that can be personalized and then given as a symbol of the donation.

Spread the Net is an opportunity for individuals, community organizations, school and church groups and corporate citizens to make a financial contribution - big or small - toward the purchase of insecticide-treated bed nets - a critical tool in malaria prevention. The campaign has galvanized Canadians from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations to help reach the Spread the Net goal. Contributions can be made via www.spreadthenet.org; by calling UNICEF Canada at 1-800-567-4483.

For more information on Spread the Net visit www.spreadthenet.org.

April 25th is Africa Malaria Day... www.spreadthenet.org.

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