Misuse of mosquito nets fans malaria spread in western Kenya

Mosquito Net
Mosquito Net

Maryanne Wekesa tills her vegetable garden in Vihiga, western Kenya with all her passion. The vegetable garden is the only source of income for the 23-year- old mother. mosquito net
A year ago, Wekesa gave birth to her second born child at a local health facility and she was given two mosquito nets to protect her and the baby from mosquitoes.
Wekesa and her baby do not sleep under the net now because she uses it to cover her vegetable garden behind her semi-permanent house to stop chicken from destroying the crop.
Last week, her baby got sick and she was rushed to a local health facility, where she was diagnosed with malaria. “I have made several trips to the hospital to save my kid; she is not getting better,” she said.
Wekesa baby is among several children hit by malaria in western Kenya as an outbreak of the disease ravages the region. Medical experts blame the outbreak on lack of usage of mosquito nets. Like Wekesa, most families are using the gadgets to protect their vegetables gardens.
Zaddock Miheso, a branch chairman of the Kenya National Union of Nurses in the county, said the disease has claimed lives because of misuse of mosquito nets, lack of drugs and heavy rains. “It is absurd that whenever the government makes an effort to distribute free nets to families, people use them for other purposes like fencing vegetable gardens, harvesting immature fish among other activities,” lamented Ojwang Lusi, the Kisumu County chief officer of health.
Kisumu County is among the endemic counties often hit with malaria and it is the third leading cause of death in the Western Kenya region.
Lusi said that 85 percent of the residents own mosquito nets, but only 40 percent were using them effectively. Lusi urged families, especially pregnant mothers to use mosquito nets given that malaria kills people within 24 hours and the worst hit are children.
According to the country’s health ministry, malaria prevalence in the region currently stands at 40.9 percent among children under age five, 36.9 percent above five years and 0.6 percent among pregnant women.
The government started a drive to distribute 3.5 million treated nets in six malaria-prone counties, mostly in Western Kenya, in the first phase of the campaign launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014. The nets have been distributed in Migori, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay and Vihiga counties, which are malaria prone areas across the country.
Other steps the government is implementing include spraying homes, controlling the mosquito larvae and working with environmental agencies to squeeze out the disease. However, experts warn all this may come to naught if people do not effectively use mosquito nets as intended. Enditem

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