Humanitarian organization SurfAid International has completed stage two of its Malaria Free Mentawai (MFM) program, delivering mosquito nets and malaria education to 53,000 people on three of the four Mentawai Islands, off Indonesia's West Sumatran coast.

This milestone has been reached in 12 months, since the launch of the program in March 2007, despite delays when the SurfAid malaria teams were diverted to emergency work after the two major Mentawai earthquakes, measuring 8.4 and 7.9 on the Richter scale, in September. The earthquakes caused major destruction in the Mentawai Islands, with many houses, schools, community health centres, places of worship and government buildings destroyed.

SurfAid International CEO, Dr Dave Jenkins, said the MFM program has been a major achievement, especially with teams accessing the remotest villages via dugout longboats and long jungle treks while carting the specially treated nets, along with parasite testing and education equipment.

"In one year, SurfAid staff have delivered 22,000 nets to 15,000 families and they have just finished working on Siberut, the remotest part of the Mentawai Islands," Dr Jenkins said. "The final leg of the program will concentrate on Sipora Island and that work is due to start in May this year after our staff undergo some further training."

Dr Jenkins said the MFM campaign was a major step towards fulfilling SurfAid's aim to get the majority of children and adults in the Mentawai Islands sleeping under the new, long-lasting insecticide nets that will save many lives and prevent extreme human suffering.

"On behalf of our team, I'd especially like to thank the Mentawai Health Department for their cooperation and NZAID, Billabong, Lonely Planet and World Swim Against Malaria for project funding and nets," he said.

As part of the net distribution, SurfAid conducts an education program about malaria regarding how the nets should be used and cared for, and the villagers must pass a test before they are given nets for their family.

SurfAid has developed a play, which has proven to be very popular, where one person is the mosquito and there is a malaria victim shivering under a blanket while the family is safe under the net.

SurfAid has also tested 11,000 children under nine years of age for the malaria parasite, and a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) is conducted on any child who has had a fever in the previous three days.

"Our malaria surveys also assess Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) showing what people know about malaria to be able to measure changes over time and assess the effectiveness of our education program," Dr Jenkins said.

Since its launch, the MFM program has also been documenting GPS points and access details to each hamlet, as well as the population details, in case of an emergency and this up-to-date information was particularly useful in accessing the villages during the last earthquakes.

"Earthquakes are always unpredictable and we shared this knowledge and our marine expertise with other aid agencies working in the region during the recent emergency response operations," Dr Jenkins said.

He added that SurfAid will be focusing efforts this year on working with the Mentawai Health Department to build their internal capacity. "This is to ensure they can sustain the malaria fight into the future with less direct assistance from SurfAid. Meanwhile SurfAid will report on progress in this project as milestones are achieved."

For further information please visit the Surfaid International website.