About half of Kenyan households do not own insecticide-treated nets, which are used to prevent malaria, data released on Monday by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed.
According to KNBS, an insecticide-treated net is one that has been soaked in an insecticide within the last year.
Even though only about half of Kenyans have these nets per household, only about four in 10 households can afford to have two people sleep under a net.
Most Kenyans rely on nets distributed during mass campaigns, which the Ministry of Health uses as a prevention strategy in malaria-endemic regions—mainly the Lake Region and along the coast.
Only 1 in 10 pregnant women, who are most vulnerable, receive the nets during antenatal care visits. Despite the low uptake at ANC visits, around half of pregnant women slept under an insecticide-treated net the night before the survey.
This is still below the Ministry of Health’s target under the country’s 2020 malaria strategy, which is for eight out of 10 pregnant women to use insecticide-treated nets.
Kenyans living in rural areas are more likely to use this method of malaria prevention than their urban counterparts.
Nyamira, Busia, Vihiga and Bomet are the counties with the highest number of households with at least one insecticide-treated net. Mandera, Samburu and Marsabit have the lowest number.
In low malaria risk areas, Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) data shows that Kenyans prefer to buy their insecticide treated nets from supermarkets, .
Access to bed nets has increased significantly from previous years. Comparing the latest data with a malaria survey conducted in 2020, there has been a 5 per cent increase.
However, there are disparities in access and use of the nets. In areas where insecticide-treated nets were purchased but not used, households had various reasons for not using them.
Most reported that they did not use the net the night before the survey, either because it was an extra net or because they were saving it for later. The smallest percentage of respondents said it was too hot to use the net, they didn’t like the shape, colour or smell, while some believed they didn’t need to sleep under a net because there were no mosquitoes or malaria in their area.
Just over half of Kenyan children under the age of five years slept under an insecticide-treated net the night before the survey. KNBS noted that children in this age group are vulnerable to malaria because they do not have acquired immunity.
“About six months after birth, antibodies acquired by the mother during pregnancy protect children born in areas where malaria is endemic. However, this immunity is slowly lost and children begin to develop their own immunity to malaria. The rate at which immunity develops depends on the child’s exposure to malaria infection,” KNBS states.
Children in rural areas slept under a treated bed net more often than their urban counterparts.