It is nightfall at Chirombo Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chigaru in Blantyre North. Sidney Douglas Chibwe is worried. It is that time again when mosquitoes swarm the household, attacking his family. For years, his family has been complaining about malaria. He and his wife used to spend sleepless nights, using their hands to fan mosquitoes off their youngest child.
To scare away the insects, Chibwe says, they had to burn cow or goat dung which exposes them to pungent fumes that exposes the family to pneumonia and coughs.
He explained: “We all want to sleep at night, but that is hard with mosquito bites. We often let the goat or cow dung burn all night. The fumes act as a repellent.
“But then the smell is awful and it leaves everything in the house smelling. Even we would come out of the house smelling in the morning. Sometimes we would curl a cloth into a rope and let it burn slowly. The essence was to keep mosquitoes away.”
The fume leaves them with headaches and coughs, he narrates.
But that is nothing more worrisome than malaria, one of the major killers of children and pregnant women in the country.
For five or six years, Lighthouse Foundation (LHF) has been distributing mosquito nets to households around T/A Chigaru’s area, bringing a sigh of relief to people like Chibwe.
“Originally they only distributed mosquito nets for young ones in the households. That left the rest of us at risk of dying of malaria; but later Lighthouse Foundation distributed the nets to all members of the households,” says Chibwe.
Blantyre North is a humid and low-lying area, forming an optimal environment for mosquito larvae to multiply. malaria is the main cause of mortality in the area.
Chibwe says they still got attacked by mosquitoes as they sat down chatting as a family before going to bed at night.
LHF has now scaled up the operation by introducing screen mosquito net installation, which Chibwe says has made their lives even better. Through this new project, the mosquito nets are being fitted to windows and front doors to block mosquitoes from entering.
“In an effort to complement the existing mosquito nets’ deficiencies, we installed the screen mosquito nets to windows and front doors of each house. This is a long lasting and more effective way to block mosquitoes and lower the prevalence of malaria.
“Lighthouse Foundation expects that these efforts will bring visible outcomes in reducing malaria infection rates. In addition to the screen mosquito net installation, Lighthouse Foundation has actively carried out various activities for malaria prevention, treatment and diagnosis,” says Lighthouse projects manager Woo Young Lee.
He called on the villagers to complement LHF efforts by filling the gaps and holes in the houses considering that although the screen mosquito nets will block the windows and main entrances, it may not be enough to completely fill the holes and cracks around the houses.
Ernest Jumbe, from Group Village Headman Chibweya in Chigaru, says other animals, like bats and butterflies which also used to get into their houses at night, no longer do.
“All the windows are now covered with screen mosquito nets, and we have the same for the doors, which we roll down at night. So now we can sit freely in the living rooms as the mosquitoes cannot get into the house. And even in the bedrooms, we have mosquito nets. Malaria cases have tremendously gone down,” he says.
Chirombo village head, Benford Chimpiringu, agrees that cases of malaria have gone down, among people in his village and now they can work effectively in developmental activities.
LHF iis a Korean non-governmental organisation which has been implementing a malaria eradication project with Korean International Cooperation Agency (Koica) over the years. The screen mosquito net installation started in August and plans to gradually expand the range of installation.n