By Kuni Tyessi, Abuja
The existing trend in the Nigerian economy has nose dived into what analysts have termed to be recession- a period in which the economic activity of a nation reduces thereby leading to high cost of living. This is however not known to the parasite which is responsible for the spread of malaria which is a common disease in the tropics, with Nigeria as one of the leading countries.
The use of mosquito nets have been adjudged to be the safest way of preventing malaria, which the federal government has treated to curb the spread. However, investigations reveal that many families and households in Aso Pada, a suburb in Nasarawa state, North Central Nigeria, whose original inhabitants were Gbagyis, but now a multi- cultural setting due to its close proximity to the FCT, are still living in denial of the efficacy of the treated nets, thereby making it difficult to attain the 2030 year of total elimination of the disease.
Suleiman Usman is a community health extension worker and is Head, Primary Healthcare Centre, Aso Pada. He explains in semi-formal English that the treated mosquito nets are usually purchased from registered pharmacies and distributed to pregnant women who come for antenatal, as well as others who register at the healthcare centre. Do they use the nets and how often?
“Many of them tear the nets and put them on their windows. Some of them also put the nets close to stagnant waters and use sticks to support them. With this, they believe that the mosquitoes will die at infancy and will not be able to fly into their homes. For those who do not die at the last stage of their formation, death awaits them when they come close to to the windows to gain access” Usman replies.
There must be a reason for the high level of none compliance despite the fact that malaria is a killer disease, especially in children from zero to five years. What could be responsible and is proper enlightenment given in the importance and use of the treated nets? Usman reveals further.
“Yes, we take our time to talk to the recipient’s of the nets even before distribution and they make us believe that they will adhere to the conditions of usage, and one of them is that they will first of all air the nets outside in a cool atmosphere for some time before taking them in for use.”
” However to our dismay, when going round, we will discover that they are using them as they please. Already, the nets have been damaged and we will not be able to retrieve them back to give to others in need.”
”If you observe this society closely, you will notice that most of the women are not so enlightened and they quickly believe what their peers tell them concerning things regarding to their health. Some of them who collect the nets but don’t put them at their windows and close to stagnant waters end up dumping them somewhere and not using them at all.”
Patricia Tanko is a young petty trader and is experiencing pregnancy for the first time. She acknowledges that several teaching has been ongoing at the antenatal clinic of the healthcare facility as pregnant women are always reminded that they are prone to malaria, hence the need for prevention with treated mosquito nets, and or treatment after test. She’s one of those who finds the use of nets difficult. She spoke through an interpreter.
“They encourage us to register for the nets and they tell us that that use of nets reduces our cost of going to hospitals and buying drugs but when I use the mosquito nets, I find it very difficult to breath and that causes so much discomfort. I suspect that the quantity of chemicals used in treating the nets are too much and harmful.”
” Apart from that, the heat the net generates is usually unbearable. I have weighed the two options of either been sick as a result of malaria due to mosquito bites, or getting a permanent condition due to meningitis as a result of stuffy air. I have decided to go for the latter which has an instant cure and is common.”
When asked about her understanding of malaria and its effects, as well as the alternative she has decided to put in place for refusing to use the net, Mrs Tanko says “I know that malaria is a sickness but it is not a serious sickness because with the right kind of medication, within 2 -4 days, one is relieved unlike the inability to breathe which can lead to death.”
“My husband likes it when the net is used but because of the lack of sufficient ventilation, he has also kicked against it. What I do is to close to windows when it is evening and use wrapper to beat out the mosquitoes that might have come in during the day.”
“It might not be completely effective and so I use sheltox in spraying the room( insecticide commonly referred to with an old brand name) and thereafter, I permanently close the door. However, with the present economy, I don’t spray the room so often. I would have preferred the government to give us Sheltox and not treated mosquito nets” she says.
Rashidat Ramon, a middle-age business woman who trades in new born wears and mother of six throws more light about the general perception on malaria. She believes that like corruption, it has come to stay and even though caused by mosquitoes, if individuals learn how to and cultivate the habit of taking herbs, a strong resistance will be formed within the body system and the parasite will find it difficult to penetrate the immune system.
“Anybody that does not know the importance of Agbo should learn to take it. It is very good. It is better than oyibo (orthodox) medicine. It is good for the body and is straight from source unlike orthodox medicine which goes through several processes and looses it’s originality.”
“With constant use of Agbo, one cannot be prone to malaria because it boosts the immune system. Why do you think our ancestors lasted and lived longer than us? Are you trying to tell me that there was no malaria during their time? They did not have mosquito nets during their time which for me is a waste of resources as many people do not use them, even though it might be good and that’s for those who care to use them”
Dr Godwin Ntadom, a specialist in parasitology and Head, Case Management of the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) insists that the use of mosquito nets cannot be under emphasised. At a recent malaria programme in Lagos, Ntadom said while Lagos state has been able to bring down the rate/ percentage of malaria infection, this laudable feat has been difficult for others and emphasised on the need for improved lifestyle and enlightenment.
“When living in Lagos, you might not have to do a treatment on malaria when you have fever and you must do a test to ascertain it. This is because Lagos has been able to bring down the rate of infection. This can be attributed to lifestyle, enlightenment and education.”
With complaints and non compliance on the use of mosquito nets been on the increase, and recession on the other hand which has made treatment of malaria more expensive than its prevention, constant enlightenment and non-stop advocacy about the dangers of the parasite is a task whose amber’s must be continously fanned, if Nigeria, like other nations must sing the song of victory over its total elimination by the year 2030.