Netting mosquitoes; saving lives
By Geoffrey Njoku
Yaro Ado, 4, struggles to free himself from the mesh of the Long Lasting Insecticide Net (LLIN) draped over his spring bed. He has just woken from a mosquito-free sleep but as he struggles, his best effort seems to get him into deeper trouble. Hajia Zaliya, his mother reaches out, disentangles him and folds the net, carefully placing it on the railings of the bed. It will be unfolded again tonight and draped over Yaro’s bed once again when he goes to sleep. Such a seemingly tiring daily ritual can keep Yaro alive and protected from malaria, the number one killer of children in this tiny little village of Sarkin Maja in Maigatari Local Government Area of Jigawa State.
According to a recent World Bank Malaria Control Booster Project report, one out of every three children under five years dies of Malaria in Jigawa State. Yaro is four and has been sleeping under a mosquito net since 2005. As he steps down from the bed, he stretches yawns and reaches out for a steaming bowl of ‘Koko,’ a staple breakfast meal made of ground millet. On the bowl is a sticker, the emblem of the Japanese development assistance agency, providers of the nets. The sticker has been removed from the bag in which the net was wrapped and stuck on the bowl to give it some added colour.
This was the second trip by UNICEF staff to this village to deliver another batch of 265 long lasting insecticide nets supplied by the Government of Japan for the protection of pregnant women and children under five against malaria. These nets are part of a consignment of 318, 000 nets to be used in providing adequate protection against mosquito bites for a target population of nearly three million pregnant women and children under five years spread across 111 UNICEF focus Local Government Areas.
The long lasting insecticide nets have proved more efficient than the conventional Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) because they do not need re-treatment and have a life span of three to five years. Hajiya Zaliya was given an insecticide treated net a few years ago but it has not been re-treated and is rather worn out - although it is still being used. In poor rural communities like Sarkin Maja, it is common for families to continue to use conventional insecticide nets without proper re-treatment; this reduces their effectiveness considerably. One of the reasons is that the chemicals for re-treatment are not readily available and have a cost that families cannot always afford.
The long lasting insecticide nets provided by UNICEF are given to pregnant women who come to antenatal clinic as a motivation to encourage attendance and also to mothers of children who have completed three rounds of DPT immunisation as shown by the children’s immunisation cards. The nets are also used as an incentive during special immunisation days in support of polio eradication as well as malaria control.
To identify families who qualify for one of these mosquito nets, house to house enumeration is carried out to ensure that no children will be missed out and parents are sensitised on malaria prevention.
Equitable and fair distribution of these nets is essential to ensure that the potential gains of the intervention are not undermined. Field visits and on-the-spot monitoring, such as the one we are undertaking today, ensures that the end users are indeed the intended project targets.
“This mosquito net that I have received has protected my family well against malaria”, says Hajiya Zaliya, Yaro’s mother.