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FIGHTING MALARIA: ROLL DOWN MOSQUITO NET AND LEAVE MOSQUITO ALONE? By Mazi Nnamdi Nwaigwe

In the past couple of days and weeks, there has been an increased tempo in the awareness campaign to actualize the international battle cry to “roll back malaria” in the endemic countries.

Of   course,   our   country,   Nigeria,   takes   the   front   seat   among nations in the tropics that are blighted by the pandemic and scourge.

Statistics from the World Health Organization, WHO, show that millions of infants under five years and pregnant women in Africa, Asia and the Americas die every year from the complications of malaria.

Malaria is said to be caused by the female mosquito of the Anopheles species.

In the distant past, indeed right from the end of World War II, the malaria vector, the mosquito, was the major target of international engagement against the disease of malaria.

WHO led this campaign which was the mass distribution of quinine that dealt effectively with malaria and the deployment of the insecticide, DDT, which was sprayed around homes and the nearby bushes because it proved fatal to the mosquito and its eggs.

But after some time, this battle petered out, allowing mosquitoes to regroup.

In fact in the 50’s and early 60’s we had sanitary inspectors who visited homes to ensure the surroundings were neat and clean. They also looked out for possible breeding places for mosquitoes like broken gourds, pots or even cocoyam leaves that have dormant water in them. These and poodles around the homes were frowned at and, removed.

Of course, the surroundings were also fumigated with insecticides. Indeed there were local council employees whose duty was to spray mosquito-killing chemicals into the gutters in the townships and in other drainages. Mosquito nets were mainly used for babies and other infants in homes that could be called middle class.

Some of the teachers in the primary schools also had mosquito nets as an added luxury in their quarters.

Now the fad is insecticide-treated mosquito nets that have expiry periods.

And we seem to require international do-gooders to teach us how to fight the mosquito, the most prominent creature we have always lived with.

Why should we wait for WHO, UNICEF and private sector institutions like Carter Foundation to send us millions of dollars and their “experts” to supervise our ministries of Health in distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets sold by them?

In all their strivings these foreigners make no mention of the vector of the disease they say they are rolling back.

And how come, that not a single state government has bothered to bring added value by proposing physical fumigation of our drains and gutters to destroy the mosquitoes as well as their eggs?

Because of the millions of dollars that are sent to our governments to prosecute the donors’ agenda, you find senior government officials like ministers and commissioners jumping around to do a job that is best left to para-medical personnel. Why should mere distribution of mosquito nets become such a big deal?

Our leaders hardly sit back to examine the strange interest and concern by some of the Euro-American bodies who easily persuade international organizations to help them sell their goods to the open markets that African nations have become.

In what our great Ikemba Ojukwu, in his days, would call “acts of doubtful philanthropy,” former US Presidents and other latter day philanthropists, descend on developing countries with their magic wands to cure either malaria, trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness, and river blindness.

These diseases were very much pervasive when they held away as the most powerful men calling the shots from the White House in Washington but they somehow didn’t think they could be fought then, until they left office and got back into the business of buying and selling.

Our governments should reenact the old-fashioned campaign of fighting the cause and source of malaria, the vicious mosquito, by deploying well-paid field men to spray the gutters and drainages in the villages and urban areas to destroy the mosquitoes.

This can then be backed up by encouraging the use of mosquito nets   which   can   be   locally  produced  at  Ariaria   Market  in  Abia   in millions.

The governments only need to mobilize the tailors or assure of sustained patronage. The nets need not be treated as they would still keep the mosquitoes away from those sleeping inside them.

It is surprising that environmentalists have not yet raised any objections to the use of the treated nets until the nets are no longer selling well.

The DDT that was so effective in controlling the mosquitoes was discredited as dangerous to man when new insecticides were introduced into the market and needed also to be sold by the overseas exporters.

Our gullible rulers relaxed the use of DDT but made no effort to encourage local scientists to research into a more environment-friendly insecticide or even a vaccine to immunize us from the effects of mosquito bite.

So much noise is made about the insecticide-treated nets as the final word in eliminating malaria as if it is only in the bed, and at night, that the mosquito visits.

The pernicious and ubiquitous beast operates round the clock and attacks all animals with blood, including goats, cows, monkeys and man!

The mosquito and malaria have been around even before scientists discovered means of containing them.

Indeed malaria had decimated scores of men, women and children for years before the rampant mosquito was identified to be the transmitter and vector.

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