Mr Sydney Ageyomah Abilba, the Upper East Regional Medical Entomologist of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) says Insecticides Treated Nets (ITNs) are not for gardening purposes, but intended to protect users against mosquito bites and malaria.
He explained that mosquito nets that were expired after about three years, torn and could not be sown for use, could be used for farming purposes. “But some farmers are also abusing it, they even use new nets.
“Some have realised that the insecticides used to treat the nets are able to ward off some insects in the garden, so they abuse it with the intention that insects that come to feed on their crops, especially the vegetables do not come around,” Mr Abilba noted.
Mr Abilba who is also the Malaria Focal Person, for the Region, said this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the use of ITNs after the Agency visited some farming communities within the Region and realised that mosquito nets were used to protect seedlings from pests.
Some of the communities that indulge in that practice in their dry season gardens in the Region include Winkogo, Sumbrungu, Zebilla, Tono and Bazua among others.
The Agency also observed that some tipper truck drivers use the nets to cover the sand loaded in their trucks to prevent the wind from blowing it away.
Mr Abilba said “It is a very big challenge, we have been following up to see how we can stop that practice, but it takes time for human behaviour to change and for the drivers to understand that the Insecticide Treated Nets are to protect them from mosquito bites.”
He said the nets would help ensure a malaria free society, and farmers would be healthy to perform their farming activities, “We are following up with advocacy to let them understand the need to use the nets for the intended purpose, which is to sleep under them with their families to prevent malaria.”
According to the Ghana Demographical Health Survey conducted about two years ago on the use of mosquito nets, it was realised that the availability of mosquito nets in most households was encouraging, but the usage was a challenge, he said.
The Malaria Focal Person said in spite of the flimsy excuses some members of the public gave as reasons not to sleep under the ITNs, the GHS in the Region continued to engage communities with its social behaviour change strategy to ensure that people understood the benefits of sleeping under the ITNs.
He said the general usage of ITNs in the Region and the entire country was not encouraging, “The national usage coverage per GHS the survey was not encouraging, and it is something we need to continue to educate the public on.”
Mr Abilba called on the media to propagate the importance of the use of ITNs and to support the “Zero malaria starts with me” campaign which was launched late last year by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), in collaboration with the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) and Speak Up Africa, an advocacy and communication Organisation based in Senegal.
“The media can help us with the advocacy because it is an area we need to intensify so that the public can get to know more about the disease burden. With more advocacy by the media, we will be able to achieve our desired results of having a malaria free Ghana,” he said.
Mr Isaac Baba, a Tipper truck driver at Winkogo, said “Some of my colleagues use the nets to cover the sand loaded in their trucks to prevent wind from blowing dust into the eyes of other road users”.