Monday, August 31, 2015

Of treated mosquito nets and malaria

I love mosquito nets. Have used them since the nineties when in boarding school. It was a staple item in my list of things to have whenever getting ready to begin a new term in boarding school. And after finishing school I continued to use them on and off. Especially after childbirth and with my young children. Under five maternal mortality is real, you know. 

In my working life as well, I have been privileged to have been part of the ‘Kick Malaria out of Ghana” Campaign. And was impressed about the massive country wide drive to give free mosquito nets to all Ghanaians. And  we succeeded. For about two years. The rate of malaria dropped significantly in endemic areas. Children's lives were saved. Mothers rejoiced and the donor community shared stories of the expected outcomes. 

Since then, everything has evolved. Mobile phones have evolved, school curricula have been changed   and even the dreaded process of preparing fufu has been modified. We now have a fufu making machine, in both local and foreign variety,  sold by Samsung, no less! Even the mosquito itself has evolved.  We no longer treat Malaria with Chloroquine and quinine but rather use artesunates. 

My big question is, why hasn’t the mosquito net evolved? What is with the design of the mosquito net? Are there no inventors, creators to change the design and functionality of the mosquito nets? We still only have it in two possibly three colours- white, blue and green, I believe. You still need sticks nailed to your bed to hand it up and only has two sizes- single bed and double bed. 

Our beds are bigger, our rooms are plusher, who wants to spoil the beauty of her bedroom with ugly sticks nailed to her bed and a blue or green coloured mosquito net when her colour theme is fuschia? Why cant we have structured nets that can be drawn together with a string and opened the same way? The way blinds have nowadays? Why do we still have to roll the nets and tie them in an unsightly pile at the top of the bed? 

What hasn’t anyone noticed the need to improve the design and functionality of the mosquito net so as to imbibe them more and more into our culture? We are still stuck with a mosquito net design from the dark ages.

A German friend of mine who visited Ghana for the first time insisted on sleeping in her mosquito net in one of the high end hotels in Accra. Despite the high rate of mosquito infestation in the general area of the hotel, they had no facilities to accommodate her mosquito net. Generally hotels in Ghana do not use mosquito nets, has anyone wondered why? Similarly with hospitals. Even the maternity and children's wards of all hospitals have no mosquito nets. There must be a reason for this lack of adherence with the one thing that will help eradicate malaria. I believe it is the design and functionality.

I think the Ministry of Health and donors are doing well with this new Malaria campaign with the treated mosquito nets. But they should go deeper. Change the functionality of the mosquito nets. Train carpenters to include mosquito net sticks as part of the bed and not as an ugly add-on. Recognise sizes and new shapes of beds the Ghanaian uses and design to meet our needs. And give us more variety. We want frills, flowers and frostings, and many more.  Then you will see mosquito nets in hotels and in high class homes and bedrooms. Not only in the rural areas and for bunk beds. And then malaria can really pack its bags and leave.

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