Malaria Nets Keep Mosquitoes Out . . . and Fish In

WORLD

Insecticide-treated nets are widely considered a magic bullet against malaria—one of the cheapest and most effective ways to stop a disease that kills at least half a million Africans each year. But many recipients don’t use the nets for their intended purpose—instead, they sew together anti-malaria nets into gigantic sieves that trawl the bottom of the lakes and wetlands, culling some of Africa’s most stressed fish populations. (New York Times)

Learn more about insecticide-treated nets (ITNs).

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Malaria is entirely preventable, but remains a leading cause of illness and death throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization, in 2013, an estimated 437,000 African children died before their fifth birthday due to malaria. Blue-tinted long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), draped over sleeping areas, are crucial weapons in battling the disease. Photograph courtesy USAID/Wendy Stone

Malaria is entirely preventable, but remains a leading cause of illness and death throughout sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Health Organization, in 2013, an estimated 437,000 African children died before their fifth birthday due to malaria. Blue-tinted long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), draped over sleeping areas, are crucial weapons in battling the disease.
Photograph courtesy USAID/Wendy Stone

Discussion Ideas

  • The very well-reported New York Times story is a case study of an international aid program. What is a case study?
    • A case study is an analysis of a specific case of a broader subject of study.
    • The NYT article presents an analysis of a specific case: how some sub-Saharan Africans are using insecticide-treated nets, donated to combat malaria, as fishing nets. The broader subject of study is how international aid programs work.

 

  • One of the most important elements in a case study is identifying the stakeholders involved. What are stakeholders?
    • Stakeholders are people or groups that have an interest in the development or resolution of a situation, debate, or set of circumstances.

 

Who are the stakeholders in the situation described in the New York Times article? What are their motivations? Remember, stakeholders can have multiple interests, and some of those interests can even compete with each other. There are no easy, or right, answers to this set of circumstances. These are just some possible answers.

  • sub-Saharan Africans
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes, these individuals and families want to protect themselves and their loved ones from malaria.
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • Yes, people also want to protect themselves from potential starvation and poverty that prevents them or their children from achieving a better life.
  • local, regional, and national governments
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes. Government officials want to provide their citizens with economic and social opportunities. They want their citizens to be healthy, ambitious, and hard-working, as this creates stronger communities and a more stable, prosperous nation.
      • According to the NYT, Congolese officials confiscated and burned any ITNs used for fishing, while Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni threatened to jail anyone fishing with a mosquito net.
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • No. Governments have generally opposed using ITNs as fishing nets, although in conflict-torn areas, the government has failed to enforce bans on ITN fishing nets.
  • international aid agencies
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • Not really. Acknowledging problematic uses of the nets may reduce funding for ITNs.
      • Says Amy Lehman, founder of the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, “The narrative has always been, ‘Spend $10 on a net and save a life,’ and that’s a very compelling narrative. . . But what if that net is distributed in a waterside, food-insecure area where maybe you won’t be affecting the malaria rate at all and you might actually be hurting the environment? . . . It’s a lose-lose. And that’s not a very neat story to tell.”
  • net manufacturers
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes. According to the NYT, “Mosquito nets are now a billion-dollar industry, with hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated nets passed out in recent years, and many more on their way.”
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • Yes. There is an incentive to develop insecticide treatments that will not contaminate fish or the environment. Increased demand for nets supports the manufacturing industry. Netmaking provides jobs to thousands of workers in Europe and Southeast Asia (where many nets are manufactured).
      • No. Many net manufacturers, such as BASF, produce ITNs for a specific humanitarian purpose. If there is a market for similar technology, they may want to adapt and sell it for higher profits to the fishing industry.
  • medical community
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes. ITNs are recognized as the best, most practical asset in the fight against malaria.
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • No. Some of the insecticides used in the nets are recognized toxins, and may be harmful to the environment, fish, and people.
  • fishing industry
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes.
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • No. Professional fishers oppose use of ITNs, fearing it will drive them out of business.
        • According to the NYT, “Madagascar’s industrial shrimp catch plummeted to 3,143 tons in 2010 from 8,652 tons in 2002.”
        • Sporadic violent conflict has developed between professional fishers and ITN fishers, and some communities have boycotted professionally caught fish.
  • conservation groups
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as mosquito nets?
      • Yes.
    • Does this stakeholder support using ITNs as fishing nets?
      • Possibly. At least one scientist in the NYT article says fishing with ITNs does not impact the ecosystem. He advocates a “’balanced harvest’ approach that calls for catching more juvenile fish and sparing some of the adults.”
      • No. Deforestation and rapid population growth have already reduced fish populations in Africa’s wetlands and lakes. ITN fishers may contribute to this dwindling fish population.
        • “They are catching very small fish that haven’t matured,” [a Zambian fisheries official] said. “The stocks won’t be able to grow.”
        • The ITN fishers often trawl the most environmentally sensitive areas. They “work from shore, tugging the nets through shallow waters, precisely where many species spawn, creating another potential problem: the slow, steady destruction of sensitive aquatic breeding grounds.”

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

New York Times: Meant to Keep Malaria Out, Mosquito Nets Are Used to Haul Fish In

Nat Geo: Insecticide-Treated Nets: Keeping malaria at bay

One response to “Malaria Nets Keep Mosquitoes Out . . . and Fish In

  1. Pingback: A Yale health student volunteers in Accra, Ghana | Study Abroad Exchange Tech·

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