It is a good feeling to live near dams as one enjoys a pleasant atmosphere, which ensures good relaxation.
However, for some residents of the Northern Region, who live near dams, it is not only about the pleasant atmosphere but the desire to have access to water all-year-round for domestic and agricultural purposes.
However, they face life-threatening challenges in their quest to have access to this precious commodity for their survival; dam sites are haven for mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes like clean, shallow and stable water bodies to lay eggs and breed; and dams present such conditions, which explain why dam sites are mosquito-endemic zones.
Experiences of people living near dams on fighting malaria
Madam Mariama Yussif lives in a compound house near the Zujung Dam in Tamale with her grandchildren and other occupants. She likes the neighbourhood but dreads the incessant attacks she and her family receive from mosquitoes in the area.
Madam Yussif turned to using mosquito coils and repellent to avoid bites from the dangerous insects. Two years ago, she and her grandchildren spent a week on admission at a health facility after they were diagnosed of malaria. It was discovered that the dam in the area bred lots of mosquitoes.
She and her household were then supplied with insecticide treated nets and advised to sleep under them. Since embracing the nets, she and her household became free of malaria.
Madam Yussif told GNA that “I knew that bed nets were effective in preventing mosquito bites, but we did not use them because of how we felt when we used them. With what we went through, we will always use bed nets to stay free of mosquito bites and malaria”.
Mr Alhassan Iddrisu, a tailor residing near the Zujung Dam, always used fan in the night to ward off mosquitoes. Six months ago, he was weak and could not work. He was later diagnosed of malaria when he visited a health facility. He was advised to sleep under insecticide treated nets, which he obliged.
Mr Iddrisu said “When I stopped working because of malarial infection, I lost some of my customers. I will always use bed nets to avoid malaria”.
Following their respective experiences, Madam Yussif and Master Iddrisu have become local self-appointed malaria ambassadors encouraging other residents to embrace insecticide treated nets to stay safe of malaria.
Whilst Madam Yussif and Mr Iddrisu have embraced the insecticide treated nets after suffering from malaria, many other people living near dams in the Northern Region hold various beliefs against sleeping under bed nets with claims such as it is warm and they do not feel comfortable under them, a situation, which leaves them susceptible to mosquito bites and being infected with malaria.
In addition to the existing dams in the country, in the last two years, the government built about 450 small dams in some communities in the northern part of the country.
Many people in some of those communities live near the dams. Studies have suggested that mosquitoes from dams can spread within five kilometres radius of the dams, which means people living within such a distance to the dams, will be attacked by mosquitoes.
Interventions to fight malaria amongst people living near dams
Ghana is among the 15 highest burden malaria countries in the world with three per cent of global malaria cases and deaths.
The country reported the highest increase in absolute case numbers, (500,000 new cases) from 2017 to 2018, which represented a five per cent increase compared to 2017 figures (from 213 to 224 per 1000 of the population at risk).
This situation requires targeted interventions to fight malaria infection and transmission.
Therefore, the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) undertakes indoor residual spraying, as well as encourages people in mosquito endemic areas to use bed nets, which are the most effective ways to control malaria.
In the specific case of people living near dams, the NMCP embarks on larvae source management to kill mosquitoes in stagnant waters including dams, but this exercise is yet to cover many of the dam sites across the country.
The way forward
The NMCP needs to take special measures to protect people living near dams in the country from malaria infection.
Whilst the NMCP encourages the use of bed nets, it must also expand its indoor residual spraying as well as the larvae source management interventions to cover a lot more communities to control the malaria vector and protect all people at risk of malaria living near dams in the country.
Such residents must also do away with their beliefs against the use of bed nets and embrace the bed nets to effectively protect them against malaria.
This is crucial to attaining the goal of zero malaria in the country.