By Majid Batambuze
Early this year the Government, with support from the Global Fund, US President’s Malaria Initiative, DFID and World Vision procured 21,000,000 long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets for distribution to every homestead in Uganda.
These nets are tri-functional; they kill, repel and act as a barrier against mosquitos. The objective for this was to mitigate the prevalence of malaria and reduce on the number of deaths caused by malaria.
According to the Ministry of Health, Uganda registers thirty million cases of malaria per year and about 100,000 deaths as a result of malaria. The Uganda government spends a phenomenal amount of money to purchase anti-malarial drugs and pharmaceuticals to fight the scourge of malaria.
The cost of malaria to the Ugandan economy is in hundreds of millions of dollars; from money spent on treatment of malaria cases, deaths, loss of working hours to time and finances lost on funerals.
Mosquito nets have been distributed before in Uganda and continue to be distributed but never on the scale as envisaged and planned by the government of Uganda in this instance.
This initiative, if successfully implemented, shall reduce child mortality by 19% and malaria prevalence by 40-60%. It is, therefore, timely and the Government should be commended.
The success of this initiative, however, lies in raising awareness of the population about the exercise of registration of every homestead and its occupants, distribution and uptake of the nets. The people are also being educated about use, care and maintenance of these nets to achieve the desired effect.
The registration of homesteads and distribution of nets commenced in August this year in with the Karamoja and Sebei sub regions and shall be rolled out to cover the entire country. As I write, 16 districts in eastern Uganda have already been covered.
For every two people in a homestead, a net is being given. Where the number of homestead occupants is odd for example 1,3,5,7 or 9, we are rounding off to next high number. In the districts, this exercise is being monitored and overseen by the District Task Force which is headed by the RDCs and includes the District Internal Security Officer, District Police Commander, LC5 Chairman, UPDF officer, District Health Officer and the OC Prisons.
Actual registration is being done by the Village Health Teams and LCs. This team is augmented by officials from the Ministry of Health who are camping in the districts throughout the entire exercise.
What is, however, disturbing is the almost blanket silence from the print media. All are guilty of ignoring this life saving initiative yet they are very fast in castigating the government for its perceived failures. FM radio stations in districts, recognising the importance of the initiative have played a key role in publicising it and urging the public to register for the nets.
The print media sadly has been left behind on this one. While I recognise the media’s love and penchant for bad news I fail to understand their refusal to give this noble initiative the publicity that it requires.
I am, therefore, calling upon all media houses to recognise this initiative for what it is; a well thought out exercise to greatly reduce on the scourge of malaria and its devastating effects on the populace of Uganda and give it the support and publicity is duly needs.
The writer is the Resident District Commissioner, Budaka