Millions of Ghana households to get free treated bed nets in malaria elimination programme

Millions of Ghanaian households across all regions are to receive free long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) this year under a point mass distribution (PMD) strategy as the country intensifies efforts to move from the control stages of managing malaria to the pre-malaria elimination stage.

The national exercise would begin with registration of households in the northern parts of the country in April using an electronic device, NetAPP, to capture data and household details for the distribution exercise.

The NetApp installed on a Samsung tablet would be used to collect the following information: name of household head, number of people in the household, house number, location, contact number and an ID card number.

The exercise has become necessary to promote the culture of treated bed net usage across the country, as malaria remains a public health disease of significance.

Ghana’s national strategic goal between 2021 and 2025 is to reduce malaria morbidity by 50 per cent malaria and morbidity by 90 per cent. The strategy is also to get at least six districts to pre-elimination phase through deliberate efforts using preventive and curative tools available.

As the country seeks to protect at least 80 per cent of the population at risk with effective malaria prevention interventions by 2025, there are various hurdles to overcome.

Mr. Christian Atta-Obeng, Technical Officer at the Vector Control Unit of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), said the registration of households would be carried out under strict COVID-19 protocols.

He was speaking at the fourth virtual meeting of the National Malaria Media Coalition, made up of journalists across the country.

It was organised by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) in collaboration with the NMCP as part of the media advocacy agenda to put malaria control at the front burner in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Mr. Atta-Obeng, the point mass distribution of the LLINs is free and anybody caught collecting monies before giving out the nets would be handed over to the law enforcement agencies.

He said the exercise is being carried out under the universal coverage principle where everyone in a household can have access to treated bed nets, and this involves giving out one net for two persons in a household.

He explained that a household is the number of people living together who “eat” from the same pot and have a recognised person as their head.

He said institutions not to be registered are all boarding schools, faith-based camps, prisons, police and military camps, where people move in and out and so are not permanent dwelling places.

Mr. Atta-Obeng said over the years, other channels of sending LLINs to households included continuous distribution through the health facility and schools.

Adding that the point mass distribution this year is a revised campaign strategy by the Ghana Health Service and partners to get LLINs into households using the universal coverage principle, which is conducted every three years.

He said the 2021 campaign aims to achieve the objectives of registering at least 90 per cent of all households in targeted regions and distributing the nets to at least 90 per cent of all registered households.

He explained that surveys carried out showed why some people do not use the nets and among the reasons given are that the chemicals in the net are unsafe, the nets are too hot or that there is a preference for other vector control measures.

He added that the NMCP is working on changing these perceptions and making a case for the widespread usage of the nets.

Mr. Atta-Obeng mentioned other challenges associated with the bed nets distribution exercise to include politics and low patronage in urban areas.

He said other vector control methods being used to control malaria are the indoor residual spraying (IRS) in selected areas of the country in the Upper West, Upper East, Northern, North East and the Ashanti regions.

Other malaria control methods also being used to control the disease are case management, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, larvae source management and the recently introduced malaria vaccine.

By Eunice Menka
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