There is need to educate the general public not only on the importance of using mosquito nets but on how to properly use them.
CONSTANT use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) is considered as one of the most effective ways of reducing malaria infections. And, it is against this background that the government, through the Malaria Haikubaliki campaign embarked on a massive countrywide ITNs distribution programme.
But, what is disheartening is the fact that the use of these nets remains questionable as most people, due to traditional beliefs or many other reasons, are resistant to change and in the end, divert the nets into other uses. It is common knowledge that some people have in the past converted ITNs to fishing nets.
It wasn't surprising, though disheartening, that some of the old men in Ilemela District who were given mosquito nets, have vowed not to use them,demanding mattresses and beds in order for them to use the nets properly.
This happened recently at Lukobe Street in Ilemela District where a total of 120 mosquito nets were distributed to the old men. Speaking to reporters in Ilemela on behalf of the old men, Elias Kapinda, said they would never use mosquito nets because they don't have mattresses.
“We really appreciate the support, but we are still asking ourselves how we are going to use them properly, since we don't have beds and mattresses, because some of us sleep on the floor,” said Kapinda.
He revealed that since he was born, he has never slept under a mosquito net and that he often sleeps on local traditional beds and therefore, it is difficult for him to fix a mosquito net.
There many other incidences that have been reported in the media whereby people refuse to use nets for various reasons. This, therefore, calls for a massive campaign to educate wananchi on the importance of using these nets.
It is along these lines that Sikika, an NGO dealing with health issues, soon after the distribution of the nets, voiced their concern over the use of these life saving nets.
“Sikika urges recipients of these ITNs to use them and stop compromising their health by either selling them or turning them into fishing nets. We also urge all citizens to adhere to user guidelines of the nets, a move that will provide best results,” said the organisation's executive director, Irenei Kiria in a press release, adding that the general public have the right to information when such distributions are taking place and also to monitor public resources.
This, therefore, calls for concerted effort in teaching the general public not only on how to use the nets properly but also the importance of using them everyday. This will go a long way in fighting malaria.
Malaria is one of the main health problems in the world with 300-500 millions cases yearly and about one million deaths. It remains sad that despite having methods to control the disease, the malaria problem in Africa has increased over the years.
The vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, south of the Sahara, where malaria also presents major obstacles to social and economic development. Malaria has been estimated to cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP, even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum.
There are at least 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally, resulting in more than a million deaths. Around 90 percent of these deaths occur in Africa, mostly in young children. Malaria is Africa's leading cause of under-five mortality (20 percent) and constitutes 10 percent of the continent's overall disease burden. It accounts for 40 percent of public health expenditure, 30-50 percent of inpatient admissions, and up to 50 percent of outpatient visits in areas with high malaria transmission.
There are several reasons Africa bears an overwhelming proportion of the malaria burden. Most malaria infections in Africa south of the Sahara are caused by Plasmodium falciparum, the most severe and life-threatening form of the disease.
This region is also home to the most efficient, and therefore deadly, species of the mosquitoes which transmit the disease. Moreover, many countries in Africa lack the infrastructures and resources necessary to mount sustainable campaigns against malaria and as a result few benefited from historical efforts to eradicate malaria.
In Africa today, malaria is understood to be both a disease of poverty and a cause of poverty. Annual economic growth in countries with high malaria transmission has historically been lower than in countries without malaria. Economists believe that malaria is responsible for a growth penalty of up to 1.3 percent per year in some African countries. When compounded over the years, this penalty leads to substantial differences in GDP between countries with and without malaria and severely restrains the economic growth of the entire region.
Malaria also has a direct impact on Africa's human resources. Not only does malaria result in lost life and lost productivity due to illness and premature death, but malaria also hampers children's schooling and social development through both absenteeism and permanent neurological and other damage associated with severe episodes of the disease.
One of the greatest challenges facing Africa in the fight against malaria is drug resistance. Resistance to chloroquine, the cheapest and most widely used antimalarial, is common throughout Africa (particularly in southern and eastern parts of the continent). Resistance to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), often seen as the first and least expensive alternative to chloroquine, is also increasing in east and southern Africa. As a result of these trends, many countries are having to change their treatment policies and use drugs which are more expensive, including combinations of drugs, which it is hoped will slow the development of resistance.
It is vital that all stakeholders involved in the Malaria Haikubaliki campaign and other partners adopt a no nonsense approach to the disease with the aim of eradicating it. Kicking malaria out of this country is possible but there is need for massive educational campaigns so that the general public supports the initiatives of the organisers. This is so because if the general public fails to support these initiatives, then it will be a matter of wasting taxpayers' money.
There is also need to get rid of mosquito breeding places such as uncollected garbage littering out streets and residential areas, attending to blocked sewer pipes or drainage ways and above all encourage wananchi to observe highest levels of hygiene especially in areas they live to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
There is also need for massive spraying of homes and all areas suspected to be harboring mosquitoes. There is also need to deal with the problem of counterfeit anti malaria drugs and dispelling old fashioned traditional beliefs by some men in other parts of the country that use of mosquito nets causes impotency.
If each and every person plays his or her part, then it is possible to kick malaria out of the country. But, as long as a holistic approach is not taken in fighting the disease, then malaria will continue wreaking havoc in this country and winning the war against malaria will remain just but a pipeline dream.