When households in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have an adequate number of insecticide-treated bed nets, pregnant women and children under five are the most likely family members to sleep under the ones they have, leaving men and school-aged children more exposed to malaria, new Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) research suggests. CCP is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The findings, published last month in Malaria Journal, also show that when households have an adequate supply of treated bed nets – one for every two members living under the same roof – these gender and age disparities shrink.
The World Health Organization credits the widespread use of insecticide-treated bed nets with playing a huge role in the reduction of the number of malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa since 2001.
The new research finds, however, that across 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, on average, only 30 percent of households have enough bed nets, ranging from 8.5 percent in Cameroon to 62 percent in Uganda.
“The good news is that we have succeeded in protecting some of the most vulnerable people – pregnant women and young children – from malaria,” says Dr. Bolanle Olapeju, a senior research data analyst with CCP who led the research as part of CCP’s VectorWorks team. “Now, we need to go even further to provide enough nets for everyone else.”
Mosquito nets are draped over a bed as a barrier against bites from mosquitos – and the diseases they carry. The nets do double duty in that they are treated with an insecticide that kills many of those mosquitos that land on them.