By Nicholas Osei Wusu.
GBC News has discovered that the long lasting treated mosquito nets given out for free to households to prevent malaria infection are being used not for their intended purpose in the Ashanti Region.
The mosquito nets are now being used by riders of Waste Carting Tricycles, commonly known as ‘Aboboyaa’ to cover their refuse to prevent it from spilling while being transported to the refuse dump sites. The development has become a source of worry to the Ghana Health Service as it plans to undertake another Free Insecticide Nets distribution this year.
The Government of Ghana, with the support of the Global Fund and other development partners, instituted an intervention to distribute Long Lasting Treated Nets every 3-years at no monetary cost to households in Ghana.
The number of the treated mosquito nets given to a household depends on the number of members of that family to be used to ward off mosquitoes from biting the users, particularly in the night ultimately to prevent malaria.
The gesture is one of the key intervention strategies developed by the National Malaria Control Programme, NMCP set up by the Ghana Health Service as a strategy to fight malaria in Ghana.
Malaria is a disease caused by the Falciparum parasite such as the Plasmodium deposited into the human host after being bitten by an infected female anopheles mosquito. The mosquito bites usually occur at night, hence the free supply of the treated nets to households to hang around themselves while sleeping to ward off the mosquitoes. The nets are distributed to pregnant women during Antenatal clinics, some classes of basic school pupils in addition to the nationwide mass distribution to households.
In 2018, the last time the free mass distribution was done, a total of 589,000 nets were given out in the then Kumasi Metropolis alone. Incidentally, rather than putting the nets to the intended use, beneficiaries have found another use for them. The mosquito nets are now the most common material being used by waste collection agents in parts of the Ashanti region to safeguard the waste in transit from dropping off to litter the roads and streets.
Previously, these waste collection agents were transporting the garbage without any cover and often littered the highways and streets drawing wild public condemnation. The Aboboyaa waste collection agents say the mosquito nets serve their purpose better. One of them, Ahmed Abdul Rahman, told GBC News that even though he uses insecticides and mosquito coils at night to protect himself against mosquito bites, using treated nets against malaria is not part of his considerations.
‘’Instead, using the nets to cover the refuse in transit saves me from harassment by City Authorities and the Police,’’ he said.
His colleague waste collection agent, Rashad Ibrahim told GBC News that he has many of the nets including new ones serving as spare always in the tricycle.
“I do not buy them, some of my clients, mostly women, give them to me, free of charge. The mosquito nets are preferred to other materials in covering the refuse.’’
Similarly, it was found that scavengers who gather used cans have also adopted the mosquito nets as their preferred packaging material but they refused to allow GBC News to take footage of the nets used.
Now, what does the Kumasi Metro Directorate of Health think about this development? The Metro Disease Control Officer, Kingsley Ampratwum, said the Directorate is aware of the development and expressed concern about the issue and those involved in the practice.
The Kumasi Metro Disease Control Officer said even though there has not been any malaria-induced maternal or infant deaths in the Kumasi Metropolis in the last 3-years, the number of recorded cases of malaria is increasing, a situation he partly attributable to such wanton abuse of the interventions. Mr. Ampratwum disclosed that as part of the National Malaria Control Program’s determined efforts at reducing malaria, “an exercise toward another mass free distribution of the long lasting treated mosquito nets will be carried out before the end of 2021”.