PMI Statement on Misuse of Bednets

Jan 24, 2015 |

On January 24, 2015, The New York Times published an important story by Jeffrey Gettleman, their East Africa Correspondent, on fishermen using bednets in lakes and rivers titled Meant to Keep Mosquitoes Out, Nets are Used to Haul Fish In.

The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has a shared concern about the use of any long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net (LLIN) for anything other than their intended purpose of protection from malaria.

LLINs (a new generation of insecticide-treated net) are one of the key malaria prevention tools endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and widely supported by the global malaria community (Roll Back Malaria Partnership), including PMI. LLINs are a highly effective means of preventing malaria infection and reducing malaria transmission and are a cornerstone of malaria prevention, contributing to malaria control efforts that reduce illness and save lives.

According to WHO’s most recent malaria report (2014), an estimated 4.3 million lives have been saved as a result of the scale-up of malaria interventions, including LLINs, since 2000. Worldwide, the mortality rate from malaria fell by 47 percent between 2000 and 2013 and by 54 percent in Africa, where about 90 percent of malaria deaths occur. There was an almost 60 percent decline in malaria deaths in children under age five during this time with most of that improvement occurring since 2007.

While the extent of LLIN misuse for fishing is unknown, the examples of misuse outlined in the article are of real concern and clearly driven by economics and food security concerns within these communities near bodies of water.

Because there is a potential risk of environmental damage when new LLINs are used for fishing, PMI recognizes the importance of working with communities to identify locally appropriate solutions. For example, PMI customizes LLIN communication messages based on local context to encourage proper LLIN care and correct use, emphasizing proper hanging of the bednet over sleeping areas in homes. In communities near bodies of water, messages designed to discourage using nets for fishing are also included in the communication and outreach efforts.

If examples of misuse are found, PMI works together with local authorities and community leaders to develop solutions to promote appropriate LLIN use. The aim of these efforts is to address the specific motivations driving the local practice of LLIN misuse.

The global malaria community is investigating adjunct and alternative strategies for vector control, including using insecticide treated durable wall liners as an prevention tool for malaria control, and PMI is contributing to this effort.

We appreciate the challenge being raised by these findings and look forward to working with all partners – funding and implementing, global and local, public health and environmental – to identify new approaches to discourage LLIN misuse, especially for fishing and encourage their correct use, continuing to accelerate gains in malaria.

Signature of Tim Ziemer

Tim Ziemer, Rear Admiral USN (ret.)
U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator

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