Educating parents about using bed nets to prevent malaria is necessary to reduce misconceptions and increase use of the bed nets in villages outside Kinshasa, according to a study from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Insecticide-treated bed nets offer essential protection against mosquitoes and significantly reduce illness and death due to malaria, particularly in endemic areas.

The number of bed nets reported was enough to cover all the villagers. Nevertheless, fewer than half of the nets were used, and half of the villagers did not sleep under the nets. The most common reason given for not using bed nets was discomfort due to heat within the net—most likely a misconception. Although the bed net may reduce airflow and increase temperature, the increase might not be noticeable, and if it is noticeable, one’s health should not be comprised due to discomfort. Another problem is that bed nets are occasionally misused for other purposes such as fishing.

Even though bed nets have gained popularity, the effectiveness of these bed nets against malaria transmission will be impaired without their proper use.

Malaria is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the DRC, with approximately 180,000 deaths attributed to malaria each year (one-fifth of the 863,000 malaria deaths reported worldwide in 2008). The large number of malaria cases in the DRC is due to high malaria transmission rates, and it is exacerbated by two decades of civil war that have decimated the health care infrastructure and the government’s ability to deliver social services.

1. Ndjinga JK, Minakawa N. The importance of education to increase the use of bed nets in villages outside of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malaria Journal 2010; 9: 279. (open access)