Stakeholders have been urged to be advocates of proper usage of the Insecticide Treated Net (ITN) recently distributed to households in Akwa Ibom State, which saw the deployment of over three million nets for malaria prevention, backed by the United States Agency for International Development and other partners.
Nigeria is the leading country among the four African countries responsible for half of the malaria mortality all over the world, the use of ITN is one of the interventions adopted to eradicate malaria by experts.
John Orok, a medical doctor and programme manager, Akwa Ibom State Malaria Elimination Programme, made the appeal at the quarterly meeting of the advocacy, communication and social mobilisation core group meeting comprising various stakeholders aimed at pooling resources together to eliminate malaria in the state.
Orok, who noted that though the use of nets was one of the intervention measures in the prevention of malaria, said it was cost effective and one of the potent ways to prevent malaria.
“Net is just one aspect of the preventive intervention, we have SP, intermittent preventive therapy used by pregnant mothers for prevention, we have the Rapid Diagnostic Test, which is available for testing when one has fever but we must make good use of the nets recently distributed.
“We also have the drugs for treatment where the fever is malaria, we also have microscopy to help improve the quality of diagnosis by medical laboratory scientists.
“We must be advocates of ITN usage, we should be the mouthpiece, it is wrongly used, we should continue to do the advocacy and to sentitize the people on their proper usage.” he said.
The call on stakeholders to be net advocates followed the reported misuse of the nets in farms to guard against rodents encroaching on farms to eat crops, which many say has assumed alarming proportions.
According to checks, many households prefer to use the net in their farms and gardens instead of sleeping inside them to prevent them from mosquito bites, which cause malaria.
Speaking in an interview, Orok allayed fears that intervention programmes would be suspended when the USAID might have ended its partnership with the state government in two years time, adding that efforts would continue to be intensified in the fight against malaria in the state.
“We will continue to fight malaria until we get rid of it, whether it is supported or not. It would not be the first time USAID support ended, just like the US Action programme for states, which ended in 2018, we did not have the US president initiative for states until 2020. We had like a two year lull, but we will still be fighting malaria whether we have support from partners or not. The fight against malaria is not just a one stakeholder thing, it involves everybody, we have lots of stakeholders,’’ he said.
He lauded the stakeholders, which include the media, religious bodies and traditional institutions as well as various professionals drawn from various areas for their contributions towards malaria elimination.
“Malaria microscopy has gone up. And laboratory scientists are able to differentiate the different types of plasmodium that are available within the malaria space in the state, which is a very good thing and it has helped in the management of cases,” he said.
Earlier, Margaret Etim, a health expert and chairperson of the core group meeting, urged the stakeholders to intensify efforts on health promotion campaigns by highlighting the benefits of sleeping inside the nets daily.