Ugandans who receive free insecticide treated mosquito nets and misuse them risk arrest for sabotaging government efforts to eradicate malaria, State Minister of Health for General Duties, Dr Sarah Achieng Opendi has said.
Speaking during the commemoration to mark the World Malaria Day at Mpigi Police Playground in Mpigi Town on April 25, Dr Opendi said Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and Police across the country have already been directed to start investigations and effect arrests of all people who misuse mosquito nets for other purposes other than protecting themselves against malaria.
"RDCs and police should work with leaders and health teams to arrest without mercy, whoever is misusing the mosquito nets because that is tax payers' money and some funds from our partners which we have to account for," the minister said.
She said the continued misuse of the mosquito nets will at some point discourage donors who have over the years generously funded malaria eradication programmes.
"Let us use mosquito nets for the purpose they are intended for. If we continue misusing them it would discourage our partners who give us aid to combat malaria," She said.
Fighting malaria is a priority for the government and the country spends over Shs500billion annually in management of malaria cases and a household spends on average Shs30,000 on a single episode of malaria, according to Dr Opendi.
"In 2017, over Shs400billion was spent on malaria prevention initiatives such as distribution of treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying in 14 districts and management of malaria in pregnancy," she said.
According to Ministry of Health statistics, malaria accounts for 15-20 percent of in-patient admissions, and 30-50 percent of out-patient attendance and 9-14 percent of all in-patient deaths in the country's health facilities. Malaria is a preventable disease, but one in every five Ugandans has malaria and it continues to claim lives with 15 people in the country dying from malaria every day.
Pregnant women and their unborn children are the most vulnerable.
Minister Opendi also cautioned health workers against dispensing malarial drugs and any other drugs without carrying out diagnosis because this has led to drug stock outs in many health facilities and can cause other complications to the people.
"I also warn the community to stop forcing health workers to give them drugs before being tested and stop self-medication because it is not recommended," she said.
Dr Ruth Nassanga, Mpigi District Health Officer said people in the area are reluctant to register for insecticide treated mosquitoes nets distributed by the government blaming it on some politicians who politicize the programme.
"You may find those especially from the Opposition don't want to get these [mosquito] nets. They sometime chase our people from their homes when they [health workers] try to sensitize them about malaria or persuade them to take free treated nets," she said.