Experts have called for new measures to ensure effective use of mosquito nets among the rural population.
This was at a policy dialogue organised to present the results of a study on malaria in Ruhuha Sector, Bugesera District in the Eastern Province conducted by PhD medicine students of the University of Rwanda in partnership with Dutch universities.
The study, dubbed “Malaria Elimination Programme for Ruhuha,” begun in 2012 up to this year, during which 4,279 households in five cells and 35 villages of Ruhuha Sector were surveyed.
Delivering the findings, the head of the project, Dr Leon Mutesa, an Associate Professor at the University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences, said there is low mosquito net usage compared to the coverage of the nets.
The survey done on a total of 1410 households in the sector showed that the proportion of households with at least a mosquito net was at 92 per cent, while bed net usage was reported at only 72 per cent.
In focused discussions with the citizens of the area, Mutesa said they found out that a number of factors hinder the local people from using the mosquito nets.
Among these, the study shows, the local people use the nets to construct chicken pens, carry out fishing, or make vegetable gardens, while others claim that mosquito nets increase bedbug infestation, or cause discomfort during hot weather.
The study also shows that poor housing and accommodation among some people also hinders mosquito net usage as people fail to get the ways to put up the mosquito nets while others end up selling them.
The team called for engagement of the different stakeholders with the community to ensure effective use of the mosquito nets. The researchers called for active response to bed bug infestation in rural areas and sensitisation of the people on the proper use of the nets by the local governments, among other stakeholders.
The research also carried out a malariometric household survey on 12,965 persons living in 3,989 households and found that 652 (5%) of the people had malaria parasitaemia (malaria that exists in a person but does not show symptoms).
According to Dr Mutesa, this situation makes malaria elimination difficult in the community as mosquitoes bite the infected people and spread it to the others.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, as of last year, malaria prevalence in Rwanda stood at two per cent.