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Taming Malaria with doomed mosquito nets

Dooming house to contain Malaria

By Ayamba Kandodo & Lloyd M’bwana

If it were not for the interventions of World Vision Malawi (MVM), people from Traditional Authorities (T.As) Nsamala and Chanthunya in Balaka would still have been regular visitors at the district’s referral hospital.

Every day, four years ago, scores of people, especially pregnant women and under-five children were cramming Balaka district hospital to seek medical help following the discomfort they were feeling in their bodies.

It was the handwork of an Anopheles Mosquito which had found a fertile territory in their homes.

This contributed to many households abandoning development activities at their homes and begin to concentrate on hospital issues.

Deaths of pregnant women and children were a common site here.

This did not only debilitate the communities’ development, but it also led to some old people being accused of bewitching the mothers and children.

Interestingly, the situation opened a window of an economic opportunity for the self-acclaimed African doctors to cash in on from desperate patients.

Hundreds of people were flocking to them in an attempt to save their lives.

Jenipher Patrick, 23, from Hanjahanja Village in T/A Nsamala says the situation contributed to poverty in their areas.

She explains: “In our home, malaria was a burden. I must lament that a week could hardly pass without our two children complaining of body disorder.”

When she visits to the hospital, Patrick says, doctors were diagnosing the children of malaria.

“This could go on and on. We had less time to concentrate on farming, businesses and anything that can bring food on our tables,” she reminisces.

Her counterpart, Melipher Nkhulambe, 26, from the same area rues the situation too, saying had it been that she had no money, she could have lost her daughter.

“My daughter just fellow down. When we got hold of her, we noted that she fainted. This made us to hurriedly hire a motorcycle kabanza who took us to Balaka hospital.

“Thanks that my kid regained consciousness after doctors helped her. I don’t know what could have befallen me had it been that I did not have money,” she recalls.

Nkhulambe regrets that their area lost productive citizens due to malaria threat.

Malaria is a major public health problem in Malawi with an estimated 6 million cases recorded annually.

For children under-five years of age and pregnant women, it is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality.

Currently, malaria accounts for over 30 percent of out-patient visits and 34 percent of in-patients (HMIS 2018).

Additionally, malaria burdens on families’ efforts to come out of the web of poverty.

Work hours lost, school absenteeism and high levels of expenditures for prevention and treatment are another burden for the state, family and children.

It is against this background that compelled WVM with financial support from Global Fund and Malawi Government to roll-out Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) in Balaka district to kill the mosquitoes right from their habitats in a bid to combat malaria.

The initiative, which seeks to wipe out malaria through the spray of chemicals in home interiors also supports government’s strategy on integrated vector control which includes Long-Lasting Insecticide Net (LLINS) distribution and larvicide management.

The interventions are also being implemented in Mangochi and Nkhata-Bay districts.

Speaking on Friday in Balaka during the media tour to appreciate the progress of the IRS intervention, WVM Chief of Party Global Fund Grants (HIV, TB and Malaria) Biziwick Mwale said their aim is to combat malaria by creating harmless environment.

“Our organization is working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages by reducing global maternal mortality, ending preventable deaths of new-borns and children under 5 and ending the epidemics of HIV, Tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases by 2030,” he explained.

Mwale described the intervention as successful, saying since it was launched in 2019 it has tremendously reduced cases of malaria in the three districts.

“Since the inception of this initiative, we have seen our organization beating the target of houses that we design to spray. This has dramatically reduced the cases of malaria and contributed to health people,” he boasted.

Mwale disclosed that between January to March 2021, the three districts registered a 50 percent malaria reduction in comparison to the same period in the previous year 2020.

He added that in 2021, his organisation safeguarded nearly 2million people from malaria through IRS.

Mwale, however, lamented the behaviour of some people for marrying the initiative with religious beliefs, culture, myths and misconceptions, saying this has resulted into some other people denying the sprayers from spraying the houses.

To this effect, Mwale, therefore, asked the chiefs, religious leaders and community leaders to play a critical role in convincing people to accept IRS so that malaria is eliminated.

Balaka district hospital chief preventive health officer, Blessings Chitsime hailed the IRS intervention, saying since it was rolled out in the district in 2019, it has helped cases of malaria to drastically drop down.

“Before implementing this intervention in 2018, we had 498 malaria cases out of 1000 cases, but after rolling out the intervention in 2019, we reduced it to 188 out of 1000 cases. This is a great achievement,” he confessed.

Chitsime added that the initiative has also reduced hospital admition, revealing that the development has reduced the burden of “malaria drug utilisation” the hospital was having.

“We now have plenty of malaria drugs in our pharmacy. This was unlike yester years. We all salute to this mpopela (IRS) initiative. It has brought remarkable changes,” he said.

Chitsime said since the initiative has proved to be effective, the hospital is currently working with all health workers in the communities including volunteers to ensure that people embrace the initiative.

Senior Chief Inkosi Chanthunya hailed the initiative too, observing that it has reduced the misfortunes of preventable deaths his area was experiencing.

“We used to mourn every time and again due to deaths caused by malaria. But now, we don’t have such deaths. This is awesome,” he said

The chief also touted the initiative, saying it has contributed to the development in the area.

“My people had no time to go to their gardens and do farming nor engaging in businesses. Their time were spent on escorting their relatives to the hospital.

“But now they have more time to do their endeavor’s. This has led them to have food for consumption and commercial,” he said.

To this end, he promised to use his influence in encouraging people to accept the sprayers in their homes so that malaria scourge is clobbered.

Lloyd M’bwana
Lloyd M’bwana
I'm a Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resource (LUANAR)'s Environmental Science graduate (Malawi) and UK's ICM Journalism and Media studies scholar. Also University of Malawi (UNIMA) Library Science Scholar. I have been The Malawi Country Manager and duty editor for the Maravi Post since 2019. My duty editor’s job is to ensure that the news is covered properly, that it is delivered on time, and that it is created to the standards set out in the editorial guidelines of the Maravi Post.
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