How to ensure that mosquito nets aren’t for fishing

Via Josh at Passport, Bill Easterly assesses what to make of the fact that some Kenyans are apparently using anti-malaria mosquito nets “for purposes other than covering beds.” Such as, um, fishing and making wedding dresses. Officials are gearing up to prosecute the offending fisherfolk and dressmakers, a step that may seem like it addresses the issue, but whose ultimate efficacy Easterly rightly questions:

Perhaps net education might have a bigger payoff than prosecution. Net promoters seem to consistently underestimate the challenge of spreading the scientific knowledge about the risks of getting malaria from mosquito bites. Traditional views of disease persist.

The profit motive for misusing the nets — even though to do is to dangerously ignore one of the most effective anti-malaria strategies available — is unfortunately not surprising. But Easterly’s critique is right on — it’s not sufficient to just hand out nets (or condoms, for that matter); for these measures to have a demonstrable effect, the population needs to be shown how to use them and convinced that using them is reasonable and in fact imperative.

You should be all the more reassured to know that, included in the $10 that it takes to send a mosquito net through Nothing But Nets is a concerted program of training recipients how to use the nets. And in case you were wondering, transporting the nets is not all that easy either: