A Commentary by Aruna Turay
In Sierra Leone today, a good number of bed nets are currently being misused and used for building makeshift fences mainly on small-scale gardening as a way of protecting crops from pest invasion.
In some parts of the country, bed nets are being used for drying fish and fishing. In a study conducted in two communities in Freetown lately, Portor and Funkia, Goderich in the Western Area Rural District, a traditional method of using zincs and sticks for fencing and protecting plants from pests is no longer popular.
In most areas, this method has now been replaced with the method using bed nets and bed net owners are of the belief that bed nets have clear advantages over zincs and sticks in crops protection and fishing.
Some say the price of a zinc sheet range between Twenty Thousand Leones whiles a bed net could be obtained from an NGO free of cost or from local health facilities on cost recovery (usually Le15,000).
This reporter was able to also prove that a greater percentage of bed nets misused in the study areas are those got from supplies, free of cost by NGOs and local health facilities.
The people also explained that fish dried faster on the bed nets, which provided greater drying when laid on grass than did on bags or other spreads.
A larger proportion of Long-Lasting Insecticidal Bed Nets (LLINs) than Non-Long-Lasting Insecticidal Bed Nets (NLLINs) is being used in gardens and for drying fish.
This suggests that the people preferred LLINs because the materials used for LLINs are stronger than those used for NLLINs and are more suitable for use outdoors.
As NGOs and health facilities distribute more LLINs, more LLINs may be used for gardening and fishing.
The interviews clearly indicate that misuse of the nets started in the period when the Government of Sierra Leone through its Ministry of Health and Sanitation began distributing LLINs.
The people say LLINs were not popular in these areas before they began distributing the nets and that the proportion of bed nets obtained from NGOs or health facilities to those from stores was greater for the gardens and beaches than for the houses.
This suggests that the people preferentially use free or inexpensive bed nets for gardening and fishing purposes because the practice does not cost them, also with the view that gardening and fishing might be more important to them than that of protection from mosquitoes.
In conclusion, the misuse of bed nets for gardening and fishing signifies that many people are yet to fully convince of the effectiveness of LLINs for Malaria prevention.
To crown it all, the misuse of bed nets may hamper the efforts of NGOs, governmental and other health organizations for Malaria prevention if not promptly handled and address.