The government deserves praise in its efforts to stem the spread of malaria, including the recently concluded programme of distributing mosquito nets across Uganda.
If used properly, the nets will save lives. The emphasis, of course, is on “used properly”, as noted by government.
In many cases, they are not. If they are not, the laudable effort will not be nearly as successful as it should and needs to be.
And let there be no doubt, it needs to be successful because malaria takes a terrible toll, and at a heavier rate on the very young and old.
Malaria remains the number one killer disease in Uganda responsible for 80,000 deaths per year. And the toll is rising, with almost half of Ugandans suffering from the disease last year.
Beyond the health statistics are the economics of malaria: Some families spend 25 per cent of their incomes on malaria treatments
The nets are a way to cut the death toll, infection rate and economic impact considerably, Minister of Health Ruhakana Rugunda emphasises.
If, again, the nets are used properly.
We know that often they are not, with some being used for everything - from fishing nets to, yes, wedding dresses. As strange as that might seem, it’s not.
Look back at the statistics. Eighty thousand deaths. Millions ill. Lost productivity. And money for treatment that would be better-spent if the nets were used properly.
What to do?
The Ministry of Health needs to work with all other agencies, including local law enforcement agencies, to encourage and enforce proper use. The public must know that if a mosquito net is used improperly, there are consequences. With no enforcement, nothing will change.
The public must come to understand that proper use of nets is important to the lives of their loved ones, including their children. And the public can help by engaging all those around them on the proper use of mosquito nets. It must become a community effort.
Then, perhaps, malaria will no longer be the number one killer disease in Uganda.
The government’s efforts, thankfully, are leading us in that direction.
And we who have those nets need to do our part by insisting that everyone around us – neighbours, family and friends – use them properly.