Wednesday June 25 2014

Awareness key in stopping abuse of nets

Ugandans have devised very clever ways of using treated mosquito nets. Instead of using the net as the first wall of defence in stopping the spread of malaria as intended by the health agencies, many of our folk use them otherwise. For those folk, the mosquito net has come in handy as fashionable apparels used severally as wedding gowns, throw overs to adorn women, curtains to deck windows, and as dinner tablecloths.

As this inventiveness with the mosquito net, including for trapping white ants, and straining local brew go on, malaria as well will stay on as the number one killer disease as has been for the last 15 years. Moreover, malaria continues to wipe out the lives of at least 80,000 Ugandans, both adults, and children under five years every year. No less, reported cases of malaria-illnesses at health units have increased from 13 million to 15.7 million in the last one year. These statistics from the Ministry of Health sector performance report, published in 2013, mean almost half of Uganda’s population suffered from malaria despite all the actions to combat the disease.

This bad choice of creativity by rural Ugandans points to something wrong with the efforts of our health agencies in pressing downwards the huge number of Ugandans dying from malaria. First, the strategy for effective control of malaria through mass distribution insecticide-treated mosquito nets seems to have run ahead of awareness campaigns among beneficiaries.

The health agencies and local leaders should have first raised awareness; created a broad buy-in and ownership among the stakeholders, especially the households. This would have eased Koboko District health educator Deo Idrinsi’s task to persuade several of the men in Koboko to readily roll under the nets at night and not fear that the chemicals in the nets would suffocate them.

Northern youth MP Evelyn Anite’s message to residents to stop using the nets to cover food for husbands and decking wedding gowns should have come ahead of the distribution. This advanced awareness would have also reduced uncalled-for debates in Moroto Municipality about the blue colour of nets being about putting stress on the FDC party colour being superior to the yellow one of ruling NRM party.

Not until our folk at lakes landing sites who use the meshes as fishnets and those in Bombo who use them as ducks’ cages begin to use them to fight malaria, our efforts will be largely in vain. Ugandans, especially children, must not needlessly die of malaria because some Ugandans in Kasese and elsewhere still prefer to use the nets to protect seedlings from insects.

Mass distribution and use of the nets should be used properly in the fight to kick out malaria, a preventable and treatable disease. If you aren’t convinced, think of the children!