The Problem: Malaria, transmitted via infected mosquitoes, affects half a billion people every year and kills over a million; seventy percent of the deaths include children under five. One child is infected every thirty seconds. It is the largest killer of pregnant women, one of the leading causes of child deaths in Africa and a major obstacle to social and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of malaria deaths occur. While treatment can be helpful, it is difficult to obtain in rural regions of developing countries.
The Solution: The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) provides long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets as protection. AMF reviews proposals from organizations that need bed nets and when a proposal is approved, they purchase and ship the nets. The partner organization then distributes the nets locally.
History: The charity was founded in 2004 and as of November 2013, they have raised over $20 million USD, enabling them to purchase over six million nets.
Countries Served: AMF has been active in 35 countries across Africa, Asia and South America, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. They now concentrate their efforts in countries where they can have the greatest possible impact.
Reputable: AMF is also recommended as a top charity by Giving What We Can and Focusing Philanthropy .
Cost-effective Program: Long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets are a highly cost-effective way to save lives . Nets are easily distributed and insecticide kills mosquitoes, thereby protecting the greater community. This solution also prevents illness, which can damage cognitive development in children. Furthermore, it has been estimated that for $1 spent fighting malaria, Africa's GDP improves by $12 .
Efficient Operations: AMF manages to make an impressive impact with exceptionally low overhead, though this is not always an indication of efficiency . They keep costs down by having only two full time staff members, paying the lowest price for bed nets globally ($3 dollars protects an average of two people), having a pro bono distribution partner model, and by carrying out surveys to establish net need prior to distribution. They also target areas with a high incidence of malaria that are close to achieving universal coverage—mosquitoes die if they cannot feed for ten to twelve days—therefore, bringing malaria permanently under control. GiveWell estimates that distributing approximately $3400 worth of bed nets would be sufficient to save a child’s life, and provide other health benefits to many more people.
Monitoring & Evaluation: AMF carries out particularly strong program monitoring and evaluation. They track net use and net condition at six month intervals for three to four years following distribution, visiting approximately 5% of households. Further instruction on net hanging and upkeep is given when necessary. AMF also requires its partners to provide monthly malaria case rate data for twelve months preceding and four years following distribution. To guard against corruption, videos and dozens of photos are collected of each distribution process and independent supervisors are required at the moment of distribution.
Transparent: AMF is noted for its standout transparency. Extensive pre-distribution, post-distribution and financial data is published on its website . A donor can also request information by email on exactly how a specific donation has been used.
High-Quality Leadership: Rob Mather , volunteer founder and president of AMF, holds qualifications from the University of Cambridge and Harvard Business School, with previous experience as a strategy consultant and COO of a major publishing company.
Room For More Funding: Malaria prevention as a whole is drastically underfunded and in fact receives less funding than baldness research . GiveWell has raised concerns about AMF’s funding gap , noting that AMF has significant unspent funds to draw upon. AMF disagrees with this assessment , noting that they are considering net distributions that would require up to $40 million, well more than they currently have available.
Updates: AMF has agreed to fund 676,000 LLINs for distribution in the province of Kasaï Occidental, Democratic Republic of Congo . The nets will be distributed from July to October 2014 to protect approximately 1.2 million people.
1. How will AMF use my donation? One hundred percent of public donations are used to buy nets. AMF's minimal administrative costs are covered by a small group of private donors while distribution costs are covered by partners on the ground.
2. Do people use the nets properly? AMF ensures that each net distribution includes education programs delivered by local health leaders. These programs teach the community about malaria prevention and treatment, including effective net use. Follow-up surveys indicate that the education programs are extremely effective. For example, AMF recently funded 250,000 nets in Ntcheu District, Malawi to completely cover a population of 550,000 people. In the first four months following the distribution, from March to June 2012, the malaria rates were 40-50% lower than in the same time frame during the previous year. A follow-up survey indicated that over 90% of nets were still being used properly, with 99% remaining in very good condition and no more than two small holes.
3. Don't people just get bitten during the day instead? The overwhelming majority of malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite people at night, typically between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
4. Why bother distributing nets if we'll have a vaccine soon? You may have heard promising stories in the press recently about advances in the development of a malaria vaccine. While this is exciting, a relatively unbiased summary of the situation concludes the following: "Researchers aren't sure if this particular vaccine will prevent all strains of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, and having to take five intravenous vaccines is not practical for large-scale use at this point. Still, the effective protection demonstrated in this study is a promising first step toward developing a more realistic anti-malarial vaccine that doesn't require hundreds of mosquito bites." In the meantime, malaria can be brought under significant control, as it has been in the developed world and in countries such as Bhutan, where the malaria rate was reduced by 98.7% in just sixteen years.
5. Would my donation be tax-deductible? AMF is based in the UK and UK donors can claim Gift Aid on their donations. Donations are also tax-deductible in Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the USA. You can also set up your own fundraising page on their website.
Giving What We Can's review of AMF
GiveWell's review of bednet distributions
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.