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Of fish and Mosquitoes

April 12, 2010 - 15:09 -- Patrick Sampao

Mosquito nets may well be considered as one of the most effective interventions of combating malaria during our time. And true to that there has been a considerable drop in malaria cases where Insecticide Treated Nets have been effectively distributed and used.


Unfortunately mosquito nets are fast finding a new role in African countries especially those endowed water masses and border the Indian Ocean. In remote Tanzanian villages mosquito nets are now used as fishing gear. According to Xinhua news agency, villagers living by the Lake Nyasa shores have found a better use of their United Nations- and government-subsidized mosquito nets: instead of covering people against malaria-spreading mosquitoes, they uncover fish with the nets from the lake.


Another case is Mpulungu district in Northern Province, Zambia, where mosquito nets earlier distributed in the region come in handy as fishing gear. In most places the fishers get these mosquito nets through various donor projects – where donors hope to reduce the rate of the malaria infections in these areas but it would seem that more often than not, the fishers use these for fishing and not their intended purposes.


The major problem is obviously that the fishermen have discovered some mosquito nets are rather strong and do not disintegrate in water. Such is the case in Mozambique where the nets distributed by the Pragramma Nacional de Controlo da Malaria happened to be rigid and strong enough to fish.


This alternative use of the mosquito nets is also popular in Kenya where fishermen lack basic fishing nets and are quick in turning mosquito nets into their tools of labour.This practice is most popular in Nyanza province in the shores of Lake Victoria where fishing is a major socio economic activity in the region.


A worrying fact is that this trend is not only reserved to countries along the Indian Ocean shorelines but its now spreading into the main lands along lakes and rivers where fishing activities thrive.


This phenomena has caused an increase in the malaria prevalence rate along the coastlines of various African countries.

Though it may not be noticed, this practice is slowly but surely reversing the gains made in the fight against malaria in the African continent.


Bart G.J. Knols's picture
Submitted by Bart G.J. Knols on

Hello Patrick,

Indeed this is a worrying trend. I would like to add that the use of pyrethroid-impregnated nets for fishing is even worse. Pyrethroids are notorious for being highly poisonous to fish. Another problem is that very young fish get caught because of the small mesh of the nets...

Ingeborg van Schayk's picture
Submitted by Ingeborg van Schayk on

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for sharing this information on MalariaWorld. I remember that years ago in Tanzania fisherman used treated nets in the Kilombero river, killing a lot of fish. In Nigeria nets were used to make bridal veils... very creative but not what they were intended to be used for.