Backyard gardening is not a new thing in many communities in the East Mamprusi Municipality in the North East Region.
However, a new development—that is, the use of Insecticides-Treated Nets (ITNs) meant to protect the residents against malaria to fence these backyard gardens are raising concerns in the domain of many health stakeholders in the area.
In many communities in the municipality, a large number of Insecticides-Treated Nets (ITNs) are seen hanging on backyard gardens while some have been used to nurse seedlings.
These nets which were distributed to households in the communities to protect themselves from mosquitoes, which in tend cause malaria, are now being used for other purposes by many households in the area.
Sleeping under ITN is one of the most widely adopted preventive measure against malaria globally.
ITNs are effective because the female mosquito that transmits malaria only bites at night, and the vector control method act as a physical barrier between mosquitoes and the people under it.
Concerns of residents
But some residents in the area claim they feel uncomfortable sleeping under it because of the heat it produces, especially during warm season, hence their decision to use them for others purposes.
A 45-year-old resident of Zarantinga, Mr Salifu Ali and his 10 households are one of such people who do not sleep under the net.
“I got my first mosquito net about four years ago from the Ghana Health Service during a mass distribution. It is torn now and I don’t have a new one so I don’t sleep under any mosquito net. I sleep in the open like that. I understand the significance of sleeping under the net so I have tried several times to get some in the market but I’m yet to get one,” he said.
Over the past decades, efforts have been made to control malaria, particularly in Africa by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Among the new advances in the control of malaria is the ITNs which is known to kill mosquitoes and have proven repellent properties that reduce the number of mosquitoes that enter the house.
They are estimated to be twice as effective as untreated nets and offer greater than 70 per cent protection compared with no nets.
According to the Ghana Health Service, there are two forms of distributing the nets to the public in targeted areas—mass and periodic distributions.
However, the East Mamprusi Municipal which is a beneficiary of Indoor Residual Spray project being implemented by Vector Link is only benefiting from the periodic distribution as a district cannot benefit from both the mass and periodic distributions.
The ITN is said to have a lifespan of about four years, but checks in the communities revealed that some residents have resorted to using the net for other purposes because they do not feel comfortable sleeping under it.
The East Mamprusi Municipal health Director, Mr Mark Ayaba Abugri in an interview said there were reports that some residents particularly pregnant women do not like sleeping under the net for various reasons, pointing out that he cannot authoritatively ascertain the fact or otherwise of the matter until a study was conducted.
He indicated that with the periodic distribution strategy, pregnant women and children under five years are only targeted, explaining that “the Indoor Residual Spray program also periodically sprays the rooms of the residents to protect them against malaria” and that there was no need distributing the nets to them all.
“Though we are doing our best as a municipality with support from our partners to control malaria, it largely depends on the attitude of the people because the way they use the nets and manage the environment matters,” he stated.
Checks at the Gambaga Health Center which is one of the major referral centres in the municipality revealed that, 413 malaria cases had been recorded since January to June this year as against 320 cases recorded in the same period in 2019.
Physician Assistant of the Gambaga Health Center, Mr Anthony Asare indicated that in spite of efforts instituted to control malaria in the area, it continued to top all Out-Patient Department (OPD) cases at the facility, urging pregnant women and nursing mothers to ensure that they and their children slept under the net provided to them by the health facilities.
Due to the increase cases of malaria in the municipality, the GHS in collaboration with Send Ghana and Penplusbyte have been sensitising the residents on the need to protect themselves against malaria.
Through a project dubbed: “People for Health (P4H)”, a number of the implementing communities have so far developed their own action plans to tackle malaria.
A secretary of the Zaari Community Health Management Committee (CHMC), Mr Yidana Bachala said the approach was yielding positive results as a number of residents were now paying serious attention to their health issues.
COVID-19 & Malaria
The World Health Organization had warned that disruptions to malaria prevention and treatment caused by the coronavirus could see malaria deaths double this year.
The increase alone—estimated at the worst case to be 369,000—would almost equal the current confirmed death toll of COVID-19.
With peak malaria season rapidly approaching, the window of time in which to avoid disaster is rapidly closing.
However, the East Municipal Health Director said there was no cause for alarm because the GHS and its partners were not relenting on their effort to fighting malaria in the midst of the COVID-19.
He added that “we are starting the seasonal malaria control programme soon where we will give medicine to children of three to 59 months “.
The story of some communities in the East Mamprusi Municipal highlights the situation in the region and most parts of the country.
There is therefore the need for the governments and its partners to prioritise increasing access to ITNs through multiple channels and promote their consistent use.
SOURCE: GRAPHIC ONLINE