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Fighting malaria in Ghana- Time to monitor and legislate treated net distribution and use


By Nicholas Osei-Wusu

The cliché among a section of Ghanaians that things received at no personal cost are less valued is what appears to be playing out with the Ghana Health Service’s distribution of Long Lasting Treated Nets (LLTN) to Ghanaians as part of the national strategies to eliminate malaria from the country. 

Despite the huge cost of the free distribution of the nets to the Government of Ghana and its development partners, coupled with the fact that malaria remains a high disease burden in the country, many people still have no value for this gesture, even though they fight others to collect the nets during the distribution campaigns.

GBC’s Ashanti Regional Correspondent, Nicholas Osei-Wusu, reports that the brazen disregard and wanton abuse of these freebies in the Ashanti region makes the need for legislation, regulation, or monitoring system to enforce the use of the mosquito nets among beneficiaries of the free supply more pronounced now than ever to ensure the huge cost involved remains worthwhile.

The Government of Ghana with the support of the Global Fund and other development partners, has been distributing LLTNs to Ghanaians as one of the interventions to prevent or, in the worst-case scenario, reduce the incidence of malaria in the country to the barest minimum. 

This gesture, implemented through the Ghana Health Service and the National Malaria Elimination Programme, NMEP, is in appreciation that the plasmodium falciparum parasite that causes malaria is transmitted into the human blood through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, which usually occurs at night.

To ensure that children under five years and pregnant women, identified as the most vulnerable to the disease, benefit from this intervention, Ante Natal Clinics, and basic schools have been adopted as the key distribution points.

GBC interacted with 42-year-old Madam Martha Aidoo, who is a mother of four and has benefited from this freebie of a state intervention both during Ante Natal Clinics and the community-wide distribution as part of community visits to gauge awareness of the disease and measures to fight it.

She, however, disclosed that all six of the Nets she has received so far remain unused, though she understands why the items were given to her.

“I have six Mosquito Nets. I receive them from health people who came here to share them among the people, but we don’t use them. I have four children. When you sleep under it, it gives too much heat. They told us to sleep under it,” she explained.

Martha Aidoo.

When GBC tested her awareness level of the malaria disease and her experience with it, she narrated, “almost all of us in this house, including my children, have had malaria before, and we went to the hospital for treatment. You get malaria when mosquitoes bite you,” Mad. Martha asserted.

Asked what she intends to do with all the nets, she brazenly said she will give them to anyone who has a need for them.

GBC was told by one of her children, Winfred Oti, that he received one of the treated mosquito nets as a prize for a good academic performance.

He also gave the development of heat rash and excessive heat from the net as some of the reasons why the Net remains on the shelf two years after receiving it.

Also sharing her story with GBC, Madam Angela Mensah at Ampabame in the Atwima Kwanwoma district confirmed that she has two of the LLTNs but they remain unused about five years after receiving them.

Evidence is rife that this attitude and behaviour towards the Mosquito Nets is widespread in the Ashanti region.

Most of these nets, bought and distributed at huge cost to the government and its partners, eventually end up as veils for commercial garbage collectors to protect the refuse from dropping off while being carted to the dump site.

Others also use it as a fence for their backyard gardens against destruction of the crops by domestic animals, instead of protecting human beings against malaria.

This is why plans by the National Malaria Elimination Programme, the government’s special purpose vehicle to fight malaria in the country, to come up with punitive legislation and behavioural change strategies, as disclosed by an Epidemiologist, Dr. Kofi Adomako, are apt.

On his part, the Malaria Focal Person for the Ejisu Municipality, Nana Adjei Bobi, has suggested that, until an effective monitoring mechanism is designed and implemented by the state to ensure anyone who benefits from the intervention, its purpose may not be achieved.

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