Use of anti-malaria mosquito net depends on good health promotion

June 24, 2003

Research sponsored by the Netherlands has shown that sound evidence-based advice is necessary if mosquito nets are to be used effectively for malaria prevention. Jane Alaii investigated the effectiveness of insecticide-treated bed nets in her home country of Kenya.

Alaii's findings reveal that information provided about the use of mosquito nets must be attuned to the knowledge and habits of the population. For example in the malaria area in Western Kenya, the message, 'The use of mosquito nets prevents mosquito bites' appeared to result in greater mosquito net use than the message that mosquito nets prevent malaria.

The researcher calls for health advice and prevention measures that clearly take cultural aspects into account. For example, if only the pregnant women and children in a Kenyan family receive a mosquito net, the chances are the adults and men will claim these for themselves. This is because men enjoy a higher social position than women in Kenyan society.

Kenyans are reluctant to pay for expensive mosquito nets. And if people do buy a mosquito net, they are often not prepared to pay for a small bag of insecticide. However, without this insect-repelling substance a mosquito net is less effective.

Furthermore, the researcher found that Kenyans mostly used the mosquito nets to keep the mosquitoes at bay. They do not immediately view the nets as a means of preventing malaria. Although, there is an increasing awareness that malaria is caused by mosquitoes, many still believe in other causes of malaria such as drinking dirty water or walking in the rain.

Each year about 500 million people worldwide become infected with malaria. This results in about 2 million deaths per year. Africa accounts for about 90% of these. Young children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to the disease.

Previous research in Kenya, Gambia and Ghana has demonstrated that insecticide-treated bednets or ITNs can reduce the number of fatal cases of malaria in children by 20%. The effectiveness of the mosquito nets is, however, dependent upon how consistently they are used. The nets also need to be regularly re-impregnated with insecticide.
For further information please contact Jane Alaii MSc. (Kenya Medical Research Institute - KEMRI), tel. 06 30493804 (available in the Netherlands around the date of her doctoral thesis defence), or 254-73-370-6179 (Kenya), e-mail: or The doctoral thesis will be defended on 25 June 2003. Ms Alaii's supervisors are Prof H.W. van den Borne (University of Maastricht), tel.31-43-388-2412, e-mail: and Prof S. van der Geest (University of Amsterdam).

Image available at

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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