Uganda: Malaria Cases Soar As Busia Locals Misuse Mosquito Nets

Ms Josephine Nalukwago, a resident of Mawero in Busia Town, was excited after receiving treated mosquito nets distributed by the Ministry of Health under the Malaria Control Programme (MCP).

She is one of the beneficiaries of government's 240,000 nets supplied to all households in Busia District.

Ms Nalukwago is aware that the mosquito treated nets would help combat the burden of mosquito bites and challenges of malaria which had become rampant in her family.

"We appreciate the government for the distribution of the mosquito nets because we have been spending sleepless nights with mosquitoes and cases of malaria among my family members," she said in January.

But hardly two months later, some residents are using the nets to trap white ants, fish and shielding their gardens.

A young woman, who was at the weekend found using a mosquito net to trap white ants, but declined to be named, said she had learnt the habit from her neighbours.

"Nets are so reliable for catching white ants because none flies away; so we end up with a good catch, have some for home consumption and the rest we sell in Busia market," she said, adding that a small plastic cup of white ants goes for between Shs2,000 and Shs2,500.

Asked whether she was aware that by using the government nets to trap white ants she risked being arrested, the lady said she only uses them to trap the ants during the day but during the night, the same net is available for her family.

The areas where the mosquito nets are being used to trap white ants are Dabani, Masafu, Masaba, Lunyo, and Busia Town.

The residents on the banks of Sio River and shores of Lake Victoria in the areas of Buhehe, Masinya, Majanji and Busime, on the other hand, use the nets to undertake shallow water fishing.

Mr Patrick Sanya, the chairperson for Madibira A village in Busia Municipality, told Daily Monitor that the misuse of treated mosquito nets had become rampant.

"Wherever you move, especially when it has rained, you find residents using the nets to trap white ants instead of using them as directed by the Ministry of Health," Mr Sanya said.

Since 2014, the government, through the Ministry of Health under the MCP has distributed mosquito treated nets to Busia District three times, but malaria cases in the district remain high.

Dr Willis Syongola, the Busia District health officer, said the high malaria numbers was leading to an increase anaemia among children and expectant mothers.

Dr Ibrahim Duula, the in-charge of Masafu hospital, said it was common to have stock outs of artesunate drug, which is vital in the treatment of severe malaria, while the demand for blood transfusion was high yet the units of blood received were too low to match the demand.

Mr Geoffrey Wandera, the Busia chairperson, said there was an increase in misuse of mosquito nets, especially among communities living around the lake and in areas where trapping of white ants is a common practice.

Mr John Rex Aachila, the Busia Resident District Commissioner, said they have embarked on a sensitisation drive in the community. ' 'We have warned the locals that the nets have dangerous chemicals that put their lives at risk," he said.

Performance report

The Busia District performance report, between October and December 2020, cases of malaria were the most reported for admission at various health facilities (59,147), while the number of deaths due to malaria stood at seven. Overall, cases of anaemia related to severe malaria, especially among children below the age of five and pregnant women were six in number. The performance report also indicates that the trend of malaria among pregnant women had increased from 718 between July to September 2020 to 818 between October and december 2020. The report also lists the sub-counties of Buhehe, Busime, Lunyo, Majanji and Buteba as having the highest cases of malaria in the District due to their close proximity to the River Sio, Malaba swamps and Lake Victoria.

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