Sitting at the reception with some health workers at Owode General Hospital, where I had gone to meet other volunteers for a community service, a fried fish vendor walks into the premises.
After she has sauntered in, the domestic workers in the hospital enquired about the prices of her wares.
They each settled for the fish they wanted, and the fish seller dashed away.
Something unusual caught my attention about the net used in covering the fish she was selling.
I quickly followed her to patronise and enquire about the net.
“This is a treated net that is different from the one carpenters use,” she said, before adding that the net has really been helping her keep flies away.
She described how she usually washes the treated net before using it to scare away flies.
She said: “With the washing, I believe the chemicals certainly would have been washed away.”
As 13.6 million Nigerians suffer from malaria, according to the Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria (EHOAN), relevant health stakeholders around the world are devising different strategies to combat the spread and effects of the killer disease.
This is because malaria remains a major infectious disease in the society that not only affects the health and economy, but also negatively affects productivity, adds to costs of care and negatively impacts on the household income.
In a bid to eradicate malaria cases in Nigeria, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) rendered a selfless programme towards reducing Malaria cases and the rate it is contracted by the old and young residents of Nigeria.
In January 2018, CRS partnered the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) and other stakeholders in order to coordinate the 2018-2019 Long Lasting Insecticide-treated Nets (LLINs) mass campaigns in Ogun State.
And despite the distribution of treated nets in Nigeria, the spread of malaria is alarming.
The LLINs campaigns taking place every four years in the country compelled the Ogun State government in partnership with Roll Back Malaria initiative to try to maximise the use of treated nets in order to eliminate the high rate of malaria cases in the state.
Do residents comply with the initiative?
Recipients of the nets have deplored them into other use including using the nets to preserve and process edible foods.
This development may have longer effects on the human systems a chemical used in the production of insecticide are presumed harmful to the body.
When this reporter went around Ogun State to check the compliance and use of insecticide nets by residents in preventing themselves from feisty mosquitoes who transmit malaria parasites, it was observed the different ways residents use these nets.
A plantain seller in Isara-Remo area of the state, Mrs Saratu Atanda, deployed the nets in covering her wares at the market.
While stating that she doesn’t have mosquito nets in her house, Atanda stated that she uses the net at her disposal to cover unripe plantain. This she said helps to preserve her wares from environmental pollutants such as dust etc.
Atanda said, “I sell plantain here in Isara-Remo, I don’t use mosquito net in my house but the one I was given, is here with me at the market. I normally use it to cover the unripe plantain, as you can see.”
Unripe plantain covered with treated nets. Another trader who sells fish in Owode area of the state who does not want her name in print was seen covering her stock with a treated net.
This was just as she was patronised by health workers at the General Hospital located in Owode who could have advised her on the implications of her actions.
When approached by this reporter, she attributed her action to the need to ward-off houseflies and other flying ants that want to perch on the fish she sells.
She told this reporter that the use of ordinary nets did not achieve desired results hitherto informed her decision to use the treated net which allows her to sell without disturbance.
She said: “The mosquito net is better that’s why I use it to cover my fish. Although, I was using the normal net but I couldn’t resist the kind of stress I get. I’m comfortable with the treated net usage as flies no longer penetrate into what I am selling.”
Another resident of Ogunmakin community identified as Iyabo Rasaki, was seen to have covering her just harvested cassava tubers with the treated nets.
She told this reporter that she prefers the treated net because she doesn’t want the cassava to be eaten by goats and after peeling as well as to prevent it from rain.
Iyabo said: “We use the mosquito net to cover our farm produce to prevent it from being eaten by goats. Moreover, we basically use the net to protect the cassava from rain and other things. After this, we’ll use a new net to cover the cassava after peeling.”
Taye Solanke who sells local pots and herbs at Isara-Remo market told this reporter that: “As you can see, I am packing my goods after that, I will cover both the traditional pots and herbs with the mosquito net. We make use of the net in order not to make our goods attractive to the thieves and also to preserve them.”
The knowledge barriers ascribed to the use of treated nets for malaria prevention coupled with the perceived misconceptions and negative attitude towards use of treated nets as a prevention measure has led to its misuse as observed in this investigation.
Despite the high rate of household possession of treated nets in Ogun State, appalling reports on malaria cases are high. This may not be unconnected from the fact that residents use these nets for other use.
While some claimed not to be comfortable with its usage, some alleged that they were not available during the time of distribution.
Despite possession, some of the respondents did not put the mosquito nets to use majorly because they were concerned about the side effects of the treated nets or had beliefs that chemical used might affect their eyes.
It was observed that the majority of people in Ogun State are aware of the causes of Malaria, its signs and symptoms and how it could prevent.
With the level of possession and good knowledge about the treated mosquito nets, its usage hasn’t been encouraging as most residents have the treated nets but did not use them for sleeping, instead, they use the treated mosquito nets for domestic chores and for household materials–curtain.
Residents gave varied responses concerning the use of treated nets for malaria prevention.
Some agreed that the use of treated nets helps to prevent malaria, while others strongly opined that the mosquito net causes heat which makes them sweat profusely.
It would be recalled that in order to eradicate malaria cases in Ogun State, several measures were taken to create adequate awareness in the state.
CRS employed some indigenes in the 20 local government areas to work and benefit from the programme.
Also, they would serve as tools of communication to the community members who have no full understanding of what the LLIN implementation programme entails. Recalling that during the pre-LLINs campaign, awareness was made by the non-governmental organisation—Global Fund–is set to distribute 3.4 million free bed next to the people of the state.
A Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) who resides in Idarika, Iperu-Remo popularly known as “Doki” was seen using the mosquito nets as curtains at the entrance of his house where he normally takes delivery of pregnant women.
Also, a food vendor identified as Iyabo Alabi, residing in Iperu-Remo said, “I was given mosquito nets but, I have one in my room as a pillow and I hung the remaining one as a curtain in my shop sometimes since I sleep in the shop after selling in the evening.”
A 24-year old trader who resides in Kajola area of Obafemi-Owode Local government area, said she uses a mosquito net with her family. “We know the value of the treated mosquito nets in my household, since we have been sleeping under the treated mosquito nets there’s no issue of mosquito biting me and my children, even my husband sleeps under the Mosquito net,” she said.
Another resident in Alapako under Obafemi-Owode, Mr Aremu Toheeb, told our reporter on how he has been sleeping under a treated mosquito net for a long time. He said: “The mosquito net is good. I sleep under it. I don’t get bitten by mosquitoes anymore.”
Meanwhile, a nursing mother identified as Tolani Sodiya, who resides in Abeokuta, said she doesn’t sleep under the treated mosquito net, but his baby sleeps under the baby cot.
She said, “I don’t have mosquito net in my house, I sleep without disturbance, but my baby sleeps under his cot.”
A resident of Isara-Remo, Mrs Felicia Edunjobi said: “I have mosquito net in my house, but I don’t use it, the reason being that it makes me sweat when I used to use it.”
Sakirat Ateloye, a resident of Ijebu-Ode, said she doesn’t have to hang her mosquito net on her bedside before she would prevent mosquitoes from having its entry to her room.
“When you get to my doorstep, the first thing you will notice is the mosquito net that I spread on my door. I did that in order to prevent mosquitoes from entering the room.”
Also, a health official from the Ogun State Ministry of Health, Mrs. Adeyinka Olamide, during a one-day workshop on Long Lasting Insecticidal nets organised for journalists, said the distribution exercise would be carried out through the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) in 1,255 points across the 20 local councils in the state.
Health Workers’ reaction
The Ogun State Malaria Focal Persons (MFPs) Chairman, Mrs. Adebowale, stated that Roll Back Malaria (RBM) officers have out in their possible best to make the residents understand the reason why treated nets usage is important to their health.
“The people of Ogun State are somewhat funny because they got free treated nets and the best way some think they could appreciate government effort is by abusing the given nets. We’ve done a series of enlightenment during Long Lasting Insectide-Nets (LLINs) campaign and am sure most of them know its worth but they have chosen to do otherwise,” she said.
Speaking to our reporter, Mrs Adeyinka Olamide, a health official from the state Ministry of Health gave the assurance that proper sanitisation would be done and checks put in place to stop the activities and the wrong perception about the treated nets by residents.
“We have seen so many cases of treated nets abuse whereby a pack of treated nets is given to carpenters and we have seen them cut the treated nets into sponges and sell to people in the market. The treated nets colours differ from ordinary nets often used by carpenters. It is obvious that residents use the treated nets to dry and sieve cassava. This act is due to a lack of understanding of its usage.
“What we plan to do is sensitization or inter-personal communication, where agents would be employed to go into the community to educate the residents on the use of treated nets. Mrs Adeyinka added that: “Most residents often claim that it’s the heat that doesn’t allow them to use the net and I am sure “We implore Ogun residents to take health precautions seriously by ensuring that their environment is well kept and tidied to prevent unforeseen sickness.”