Malaria has been ranked one of the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Uganda by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health.
Despite the various efforts to fight it, Malaria remains a global concern. Although it can be treated and cured, the costs incurred are a nightmare to the low income earners.
Coupled with the emergence of COVID-19 and its subsequent hindrances to the economy, malaria treatment costs have impoverished a couple of homes especially in the less earning semi-urban and rural areas.
During the launch of the ‘Malaria Free Board’, it was revealed that a family spends a minimum amount of Shs 27,000 on each malaria episode. Such an amount may not be affordable in households where the breadwinners are living hand to mouth.
A mother’s struggle with malaria treatment expenses
For the last 20 years, Mary Nantongo, 41, has been living at Bwaise-Lufula in Kawempe division.
7 months ago, her 8 year old daughter was diagnosed with malaria.
Nantongo said that with the then looming lockdown, the untimely expenses were a huge blow to the little money she was saving to purchase food to sustain the family for some time.
“It all started with fever. My daughter told me she was not feeling well and she was vomiting,” she said.
Upon being taken to hospital, the young girl was diagnosed with severe malaria.
Nantongo operates a mini bar in her home area, her sole source of income. She would save enough to take care of her family of 7 members before, but with the Covid-19 lockdown and especially the closure of the bar businesses, her earnings came to a sudden halt.
With almost everything at stake and the huge income problems, Nantongo said that procuring treatment for her daughter was a big challenge.
The Uganda Malaria Strategic Plan 2014-2020 notes thus, “malaria has an indirect impact on the economy and development in general. The socio-economic impact of malaria includes out-of-pocket expenditure for consultation fees, drugs, transport and subsistence at a distant health facility.”
“At that time, I faced a very big challenge. I had no money on me as my small bar business where I was earning from was interrupted by COVID-19,” Nantongo said, adding that the only way out was to borrow money from a friend, to secure treatment for her daughter.
Nantongo has since ensured that all the family members sleep under treated mosquito nets to prevent the re-occurrence of the infection.
Malaria Prevention through Mosquito Net Usage
Over the years, the government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Health has been giving out mosquito nets to every household. This is intended to fight against Malaria and the malaria incidence in the country.
According to the 2018/2019 Malaria Indicator Survey, malaria prevalence has significantly reduced from 42% in 2009 to 19% in 2014 and now to 9.2%.
The Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are therefore used as a primary tool to prevent Malaria.
A study by Lancet in London showed that from 2000 to 2015, the incidence of Plasmodium falciparum decreased by 40% in Africa, largely attributable to widespread use of LLINs.
Being one of the beneficiaries of the mosquito net distribution 2 years ago, Nantongo is grateful for the government’s initiative in fighting malaria.
The Government of Uganda, the Global Fund, Against Malaria Foundation, UK Government/DFID and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) /Presidential Malaria Initiative partnered together to ensure that Ugandans acquire LLINs this year.
While the people of Kampala and Wakiso are warming up to receive the LLINs through the Health Ministry’s ‘Under the Net’ campaign, Nantongo’s plea is that in every household, all the members should be given their own mosquito nets.
“Everyone should surely be given their own mosquito net. Most of the times, a family of 7 can only be given 4 nets,” she said, adding that the nets she got are now wearing out and as such need replacement.
A take home for parents
Nantongo stressed the need for parents to be responsible towards children’s health and prioritize proper usage of mosquito nets every night.
“Parents should ensure that their children sleep under the treated mosquito nets in order to protect them from mosquito bites. If mosquitoes can buzz inside the house before you go to bed, what can happen when you’re sleeping?” she posed.
She also recommended that other methods can be adopted to get rid of mosquitoes for example spraying the house with insecticides, closing of windows before late evenings and clearing all bushes around the home among others.