The Hawking of Insecticide Treated Nets

by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

No sight could be more bizarre than this. Young men hawking Parmanet branded mosquito insecticide treated nets in the traffic. My greatest regret was not having a camera on hand to capture this most worrying sight. What is this nation turning into?

The young man holding two blue coloured insecticides packs in each hand and about five more balanced on his head approached the window of the commuter bus. He peered into the bus with that “traffic jam sellers” look, rapidly scanning the bus for buyers. I sat by the window and I had my eyes at him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He must have thought I was interested in his product so he held on a little longer, pushing his goods closer to my face in an obvious effort at advertisement.

“They don dey sell this one too?” was all I could say. The hawker hissed and moved off to the next car.

He wasn’t alone. There were so many others all hawking mosquito insecticide treated nets like they would do cold pure water and Gala. These nets are provided free to hospitals and health centers with the help of international donor agencies to be distributed free of charge to pregnant women and children as part of the much talked about “Roll back malaria scheme”.

Now, I don’t know how much of malaria we have succeeded to roll back in Nigeria or what figures the Ministry of health brandishes to show off as the success of the Roll Back Malaria scheme but I am convinced (and certainly we need no better proof) that that scheme is achieving nothing whatsoever with the nets intended to drive it now being hawked on our streets and in hold ups.

I feel particularly bad about this development. The truth is that many women and children who these nets are intended for don’t get to receive them at the hospitals. The maternal and childhood mortality rates as a result of malaria attacks continue to rise. We are far from meeting the millennium development goals especially in the areas of Childhood and Maternal mortality. Yet we find pleasure in ridiculing efforts even by foreigners to help us meet them.

What laughing stock we would be (we happen to be already) in the eyes of the international community when they find that instead of distributing the nets to mothers and children and mounting a massive campaign to encourage them use it, the nets find their way into the hands of hawkers. The fact that this is happening right here in Abuja the nations capital makes it even more interesting.

In the hands of hawkers, the nets first do not get to the target users and even worse, it ceases to be free. These nets were produced/procured with donor funds to help fight malaria which remains the highest killer in Africa. Ultimately, the aim is defeated. Why do we insist of making mockery of good intentions?

It is in this same way that subsidized drugs find their way into private pharmacy’s, books and materials meant for primary schools end up in bookshops, and public funds end up in private pockets. There has and continues to be reports of pupils being asked to pay fees in primary and junior secondary schools despite Governments continuous boast of offering free Basic Education.

The question here is, how did the nets get to the hawkers? And is it not criminal for free nets to be hawked freely on our roads?

We shall assume that the authority, in this case the ministry of health is not aware. We shall assume that their workers don’t travel on the roads and have not seen the hawkers. We shall also assume that the nets simply grew wings and flew out of the hospitals or that perhaps every needy mother and child in this country has gotten a net and perhaps there is a need to dispose of the rest of the nets by hawking it. We can assume a lot of things, but one thing should be clear to us all, the lives lost every day especially in our rural areas and urban slums following exposure to mosquito bites which can be prevented by the use of these nets shall be on all those who are looking the other way when the free nets are being hawked.

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