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Rolling out the nets

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Ghana, Health

The last time I saw David was six months ago; he's now swapped Ghana's coastal, cocoa-growing Western region for the arid savannah of the Upper East region, but he's still doing the same job: getting DFID funded mosquito nets to some of Ghana's most remote and poorest communities.

Two children who will benefit from new mosquito nets

When I first met David last year, I was tracking the distribution of some of the 2.35 million mosquito nets DFID had provided in Ghana's Western and Central region (read my blog about it here and watch a video about the campaign here).

Most of Ghana's cocoa, and other resources like gold and timber, come from these two regions in Ghana, and their coastal location and large forested areas mean malaria is an ever-present problem.

As David explains as he takes me around Upper East, the story here is very different. For several months a year, the dry desert wind (known as the Harmattan) blows down from the Sahara into Northern Ghana and mosquitoes are therefore not as prevalent. But when the rains come, malaria returns, and these inaccessible communities in the poorest regions of Ghana are those that are worst affected.

An extended family in Namologo outside their house where their new nets have just been hung up

David takes me to a village called Namologo and I speak to Francis, one of the volunteers from the village who has been helping distribute the nets there. He explains what happens when he gets malaria: "I have difficulty breathing, my body is weak and cold, I can't eat".

Awuni Margaret has been the Community Health Nurse for Namologo and nine other villages for the last ten years. She's run outreach programmes and immunisation programmes, and is now supervising the mosquito net distribution. She continues Frances' story: "Malaria is the main problem, ahead of all the other cases". Even for those who get it in mild form and can try to go to work or school, "their productivity is low... and students are not able to catch up with their friends."

Francis' clinic has run out of rapid diagnostic tests for malaria, and severe cases have to be referred to the regional hospital, several hours' travel away. For those who don't have health insurance, or can't afford to pay the medical bills, this is a journey that might not even happen.

Eva and her child Sapana in front of her new net

Prevention then, is better than cure, and David explains to me how UNICEF and the Ghana Health Service have been working to distribute the 700,000 nets DFID provided for Upper East region, and make sure people use them.

The key to the campaign's success, he explains, will be social mobilisation. Not just telling people that they will be receiving nets, but actually getting volunteers to put them up inside people's houses and make sure recipients know how to use them, and why they are important.

Radio, word of mouth, even getting volunteers to stand on the rooftop of the tallest house in the village and shout - every method has been used to try and get the message across.

David's area of expertise is logistics and he relishes the challenges of working out how to get mosquito nets to Ghana's most inaccessible regions. He draws up microplans for reaching the farthest flung communities, and tells me about how he and his team "had to climb over rocky mountains to get to remote villages where vehicles can't go."

One mosquito net recipient peers out of the window in front of his new net

There's no doubt that these are the communities most in need of this protection from malaria. Most of those I spoke to had never had a mosquito net before, or if they had it was several years old or broken.

Eva is another beneficiary in the village, who received a net for the first time, and proudly poses in front of it for a photograph, holding her baby, Sapana. It's thanks to the work of people like David, Frances and Awuni Margaret that the net is now up inside her home. Hopefully, Eva and Sapana can sleep safely, protected from malaria beneath it.


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  1. Comment by martin kanyagui posted on

    Good work!! DFID. Saving lifes and improving living conditions of the deprived in Ghana is definately worth acknowledging. The question to start thinking now is how to sustain this bed net exercise in 10 years time when the nets may start detoriating. Are we building lcoal capacity to produce these nets locally

  2. Comment by BEATRICE posted on

    It is good to see that the bed nets get to the poor who are in real need of them. This is not the case in many countries.

  3. Comment by Helen Millson posted on

    Absolutely fabulous work!! I am sure it will make a difference! Go AFRICA!

  4. Comment by Rachel Kasumba posted on

    Henry, it is great to see DFID and others working tirelessly to improve the lives of the less fortunate. One of the challenges of living in malaria infested areas/countries is that even with the availability of mosquito nets, a lot of people end up contracting malaria, more often than should be the case. This is because most recipients of these nets (whether donated or not) don't use them properly i.e. they get into the mosquito nets after being bitten by mosquitoes earlier in the night while still outside - at functions, in the homesteads, at work, school, etc. In addition, because some of the nets are old and have holes or the bedposts that they are put on are far apart, while some users complain of the lack of adequate space in the bed for them to have a comfortable good night's sleep, etc. All these factors also contribute to the continued spread of the disease.

  5. Comment by Henry Donati posted on

    Thanks for your comment Rachel. You're absolutely right that other factors contribute to the spread of malaria. As explained in the blog, in this campaign volunteers are actually putting the nets up in people's homes and explaining how the should use them -this should mean more people use them properly. An important part of the campaign is social mobilization - explaining to people why it's important to sleep under a bed net - it's not only about providing the nets, but also changing behaviour.

  6. Comment by Martin Kanyagui posted on

    Henry you are right. The campaign is having positive results