Last week, the government of Uganda launched the commencements of the biggest yet free mosquito net distribution exercise. Some 24 million Long Lasting Insecticide-treated mosquito nets will be distributed over the coming few months to all districts of Uganda. The target, unlike previous campaigns that mostly targeted children and pregnant mothers, will aim to give a net for every two people in the family.
However, despite some gains in reducing malaria infections, free mosquito nets are proving incapable of eradicating the disease that accounts for the largest number of deaths and ill health in the country.
In 2014, Uganda ministry of health officials celebrated what they referred to as the world’s largest mosquito free mosquito net distribution exercise. Up to 21 million free mosquito nets had been distributed across the country.
The free mosquito net campaign came on the background of persistent claims by health officials that failure to achieve universal coverage of mosquito nets was a major reason for the persistent high number of malaria cases in several parts of the country.
The free mosquito net campaign with huge financial support from the British and American government as well as from the Global Fund, helped to slightly reduce malaria cases.
But malaria continued to be the leading cause of ill health and death in Uganda, despite the free bed nets campaign. Updated data shows that malaria accounts for 15-20 percent of in-patient admissions, and 30-50 percent of out-patients in health centres.
The persistent high cases of malaria continue to threaten the achievement of Uganda’s and indeed the global goal of reducing malaria infections by 90% by 2030, despite impressive progress in other parts of the world.
This trend has led experts to conduct further studies which have revealed a close relationship between use of mosquito nets and people’s social-economic conditions such as housing conditions, physical conditions like drainage, bed ownership, as access to health centres, education levels.
One study on the use of free mosquito nets carried out in Tanzania, Uganda and Angola found that the poorer someone is, the less likely he/she is likely to use a mosquito net, except for Angola where the poor used nets more than the rich.
As in 2014 when Museveni warned against the misuse of mosquito nets, his prime minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda again issued similar warnings while flagging off the exercise at Boma grounds in Apac district.
He said: “These nets must be put to the right use not to catch fish, harvest nswa tethering goats or sieving malwa.