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Insecticide-treated Nets Outsmarting Malaria? 

By Mildred Enayeh* — In the absence of a wonder drug or insecticide to kick out malaria, only a blend of insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, better diagnostic testing, better anti-malarials and new tools could control malaria infections.

In Cameroon, efforts to bring malaria under control are focused mainly on the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, prompt diagnosis and better drugs. The Government of Cameroon and its partners in this malaria fight, The Global Fund for the Fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, its main partner, WHO and UNICEF, have concentrated their efforts in the provision of insecticide-treated nets.

It is in this light that the Government and its partners in 2011 distributed 8 million free nets nationwide, for all Cameroonians, with the Southwest Region receiving 55.810 nets. About six months after the distribution of the insecticide-treated nets in Buea, The Post, in a preliminary survey, interviewed some inhabitants who benefited from the free nets.

Frederick Manga, Secretary at the Delegation of Public Health resident in Small Soppo, says the nets have brought positive change in his household. According to him, they have had a significant decrease in malaria treatment expenses as none of his family members for almost seven months has suffered from the disease.

In Long Street situated still in Small Soppo, Francis Etoe, shares the same positive experience.
“I feel very comfortable with my present health status and will continue using the net faithfully,” says Etoe. He said he has not recorded any case of malaria since he began using the insecticide-treated nets. So far, he has saved money from treating malaria cases in his home.

Just across from Long Street at Federal Quarters, a student, Vistelle Fokim, told The Post that they are using the nets effectively and they enjoy them. When asked if any family member had recently suffered from malaria, she replied, “we have not yet gone for check-up, but no one is showing signs of malaria.”

The same goes for a resident of Clerks’ Quarters who preferred anonymity, the nets have brought to her more comfort as turbulent noises and bites of the mosquitoes are no more. Shella Fongo, petty trader at Turborg Junction, believes they have largely avoided malaria and spent less money on treatment as no one in the family has suffered from malaria since they mounted the insecticide-treated nets.

In rural Muea, Mrs. Regina Wougwe, a business woman, expressed joy at the drastic drop in her “monthly” expenditure on malaria treatment since she started using the insecticide-treated nets. These positive reactions notwithstanding, some people who received the insecticide-treated nets have not put them to good use. Mrs. Regina Ache, in Federal Quarters said, “I have not yet installed my nets because of laziness, but no one is suffering from malaria in my house.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Joy Okoroafor, resident at Bonduma Gate removed her nets a week after mounting them. According to her, it was the best thing to do to avoid them being destroyed by her children. This exposed her family to mosquitoes and more expenses on medication.

On her part, Mrs. Josephine Bisong, teacher dwelling in the Federal Quarters says she will only install her net once she puts to birth. Mrs. Bisong’s little daughter, however, has been a victim to malaria attacks. Despite Government efforts, there are those who have been left out of the fight against malaria. Ms. Marie- Claire Elinge, an accountant living at Bonduma Gate said she received a voucher but no insecticide-treated mosquito net due to shortage of the nets.

She said she does everything to keep her surroundings clean to be void of mosquitoes. Mrs. Helen Mbong, farmer residing at Muea equally did not receive the insecticide-treated nets. Consequently, her two grandchildren and herself have been exposed to mosquitoes. Mrs. Mbong complained of high hospital bills, a situation she isn’t comfortable with.

All attempts to get Buea District Health authorities to comment on the possibility of a reduction in the prevalence of malaria in the municipality owing to the insecticide-treated nets proved futile as some were either not available or not willing to talk.

However, the Coordinator of the Malaria Control Unit at the Southwest Delegation of Public Health, Dr. Gaston Wamba, said it was a little too early to make any valuable assessment. Other supportive NGOs in the national fight against malaria include ACMS, IRESCO and Plan Cameroon.

*(National Polytechnic Bambui Journalism Student on Internship)

In partnership with IRESCO

First published in The Post print edition no. 01361