Bed Net Problems For Malaria Control

May 10, 2010, 9:11 a.m.

"To date, millions of dollars from international agencies, NGOs and USAID have been spent to get treated nets into the hands of impoverished, sub-Saharan Africans [to prevent malaria]. ... But, as even the staunchest advocate will admit, the treated nets were not designed with the cultural preferences of the rural African villager in mind," Sonia Shah, author of upcoming book about malaria, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

Shah outlines some of the cultural reasons that prevent bed nets from being used in Africa and writes that "aid agencies and non-governmental organizations are quietly grappling with a problem: Data suggest that, at least in some places, nearly half of Africans who have access to the nets refuse to sleep under them." Though people in the West "see the treated nets as a lifesaving gift, [Africans] see them as a discomfort that provides only partial protection against a trivial illness," she writes before addressing the long-term sustainability of current efforts.

"Perhaps what we need is a whole new approach," Shah suggests. "Instead of masterminding solutions for distant problems and then handing them down from on high ... we should empower the poor to come up with their own solutions, and then help figure out how to implement them. Such a process might not lead to grand, magic-bullet solutions. More likely, we'd get micro-solutions, variable from locale to locale, from village to village. But we'd be supporting self-reliance and building goodwill along the way," she concludes (5/2).



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