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Lack of insecticide nets forces IDPs to use risky anti-mosquito coils to protect themselves against malaria

1 June 2022
Reading time: 4 minutes

A lack of sanitation facilities, dirty puddles of stagnant water, too few insecticide nets, ignorance and a lack of income are just some of the challenges that face internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a community camp in Maiduguri – and the result is a high rate of malaria that continues to spread among the hundreds who live there.

RNI reporter Zainab Alhaji Ali spoke to residents in the Sare community camp opposite the Central Bank Quarters, better known as CBN quarters, along Damboa Road in Maiduguri.

Falmata Grema said: “We are suffering so much. Every day we have to spend ₦20 to buy mosquito coils. We do not have anti-mosquito nets. If we don’t have money, we have to go to sleep without nets or coils. We know that when our children get a high fever, they most probably have malaria. But we don’t know where we can get help and do not have money to travel to hospitals or clinics.”

Challu Mustapha agreed, saying that every night they were plagued by mosquitoes in their shelter. “I don’t have a mosquito net, I just use a hand-held fan until I fall sleep with my grandchildren.”

“Last year my children got sick and one of the non-governmental organisations [NGOs], Save the Children, gave us medicine. But this year we have had no help from any of the NGOs or the government. From nighttime to about 6am every day we use mosquito coils,” said Gambo Modu.

Dr Malah Alhaji Baba, from the College of Nursing and Midwifery in Maiduguri, said: “Malaria is rife. Pregnant women, children and the elderly are the worst affected. One of the problems is that not enough people have long-lasting insecticide nets. Because of the heat, many people sit outside in the evenings, which is when the mosquitoes attack. Many live in damp areas that are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

“Sometimes parts of the nets are left open which is when the mosquitoes strike. Some people are ignorant and don’t realise that the nets need to cover the entire sleeping area to avoid getting bitten.”

Baba said some people burnt anti-mosquito coils without any ventilation in the room, which was dangerous and could cause coughing, cancer and nasal congestion.

“If you have to use a mosquito coil, you need to put it on a metal plate and open the door and windows to allow ventilation.”

He said cerebral malaria could cause death. Many of those who survived it sometimes ended up having mental disorders.

In Borno and Yobe states, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that more than half of morbidity and mortality were due to malaria, a proportion that was higher than all other causes combined, including measles, cholera and hepatitis E. The disease killed more than 100,000 people each year in Nigeria. Nearly one out of every three of these deaths occurred in an emergency setting, such as northeastern Nigeria, within populations displaced by violence, struggling to get the food, water, shelter and the security they needed.

It said malaria was spread when an infected Anopheles female mosquito, the only type of mosquito to spread malaria, bit a person. It could not be spread by being near an infected person.

Symptoms included fever, chills, a general feeling of discomfort, headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and muscle or joint pain.

If malaria was left untreated, it could result in anaemia, jaundice, mental confusion, kidney failure, a coma, seizures and even death. Cerebral malaria, which caused swelling of the blood vessels of the brain, could result in brain damage. The long-term outlook for patients with drug-resistant parasites might also be poor. However, if diagnosed and treated promptly, malaria was curable.

Medical professionals said the use of anti-mosquito coils was not advised because they contained carcinogens, raising the risk of lung cancer. They could also trigger asthma. Those who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) also needed to be cautious about using the coils.


About the author

Elvis Mugisha