Malaria is a leading cause of death in Gabon, accounting for nearly 8% of all deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The majority of deaths occur in children under the age of five. Malaria is preventable and the risk of infection and death are significantly reduced simply by sleeping under a mosquito net.
Project Sunset was founded by Sarah Lewan who started this program in 2012 with a goal of raising enough money for 50 nets. Her plan was to distribute these nets through our mobile medical clinics in the summer of 2012 on her first trip to Gabon. After her first trip, Sarah joined with E4 Project to further this program. Since then, Project Sunset has distributed over 1,950 nets in Gabon. While this is a great achievement, the program has until now been driven by Americans with no dedicated Gabonese team in place. The distribution of nets through Project Sunset as it originated was good, but it was not sustainable and was not a program the Gabonese could continue on their own.
Our Gabonese partners have identified Christian Gabonese nurses who were recently trained by Sarah to take over the distribution of nets and malaria education. From Gabon’s perspective, the program is now morphing from Americans visiting and distributing nets to a program that empowers the Gabonese to tackle the malaria public health crisis on their own.
Project Sunset has also created a partnership with a Danish company called Real Relief to import nets directly from the manufacturer at a greatly reduced cost (from $10 to $3.50 per net). Our first shipment of 3,000 nets has arrived in Gabon and the Project Sunset Team has begun net distribution at mobile medical clinics. In partnership with the Gabonese church, this provides the team with opportunities to enter communities with the nets as a tangible expression of God’s love and provide further opportunities to share the gospel. After successfully distributing the 3,000 nets, the dream is to provide an entire shipping container of 13,000 nets at a total cost of $45,000.
Prior to this, the nets in Gabon were sold for $4 each (the cost to Project Sunset was $10 each) The retail cost in Gabon’s markets is $15-20 each per net, which still made this a great deal for the Gabonese people, but did not allow for any sustainability without Project Sunset raising more funds. The $4 price-point was important because it is enough to identify that there is value in the product so people are more likely to use it, but inexpensive enough to be affordable. With the shipping container purchase, the per-net cost falls from $10 to $3.50 per net, so the shipping container is going to create sustainability for the program. Now the Gabonese will be able to recoup the cost and continue inventory purchases without US driven fundraising. This will allow US investment to be used for other initiatives to support net distribution such as education programs in Gabon and DRC and Project Sunset will have achieved sustainability. The Gabonese will be empowered to continue this ministry without further help from us. Lives will continue to be saved and people will continue to hear the Gospel as the nets get distributed far and wide.