Poor citizens of an African community continue to speak about their travails with mosquitoes
We see many brands of mosquito insecticides in the few shops in our community, but we always buy the cheapest brands. The strongest brand (in terms of killing mosquitoes) is BAYGON. It kills mosquitoes in great numbers and they remain dead. Anytime we spray it, we sleep soundly. But we can no longer buy it. The price has gone beyond our reach. Even if the price is stable, our dwindling income and purchasing power has certainly put this brand beyond our reach. We even find it difficult to buy other brands of insecticides now. Times are hard. No jobs for many indigenes and settlers in our community, no money, and many business enterprises are failing.
Now we buy the cheap insecticides packaged in small plastic containers and sold in small one-man retail shops. They are called tusa…tusa, an indigenous expression which means drop it, drop it. To use tusa, you simply punch a tiny hole on the cap and spread the liquid content in your home in small drops. We buy three bottles of tusa every night for N120, to protect our home against mosquitoes. For many of our indigenes, this is big money they cannot afford. The consequence is that mosquitoes bite them often, and this makes the malaria fever endemic in our community. But the tusa protection does not last. Even after dropping it, by 2am the mosquitoes are back. Then you will hear intermittent slaps on the body by family members while asleep at night.
What is it? I ask.
“Mosquitoes,” my 8 year old daughter will reply, crying. It is same lament with her elder brother. When I look at them, I see them throw up their legs up, periodically and scratch them vigorously with their two hands, as if they are doing physical exercise in school. Some nights we do not sleep at all. We are chasing these tiny insects. We wake up in the morning tired. Such is the onslaught of mosquitoes on my family. It is a serious matter.
These mosquitoes are terrorists. You can never kill all of them .Why is it so in our home?
- The first is that after every Harmattan season in Dec/Jan (a period of cold and dry harsh winds), the wooden frames holding the plastic nets on the windows and doors of our home, shrinks, creating gaps for mosquitoes to slip through into our rooms. There is no money to construct new window nets. What I do is that I use old newspapers to block the gaps. When it rains, the papers are soaked and become soggy.
- The second reason is that tusa is not strong enough to kill all the mosquitoes that surge into our home during the day time. Some of them survive after we apply tusa and begin to bite us may be, as from 2am. So we only have a respite of peaceful sleep of 4 hours, assuming we went to bed by 10pm. Not so all the time. In some days, I, (the head of the family), hit the bed at 12 midnight because of family commitments.
- The third reason is the gutter in front of our house. It is always blocked, making drainage difficult. The gutter is always littered with growing grass and un-cleared debris. Even if we clear them, the water remains there, unable to flow because our neighbour’s gutter is also blocked. Mosquitoes go there and breed in hundreds.
Government has tried to promote environmental sanitation by declaring the last Saturday of every month as Environmental Sanitation days. The way we observe the sanitation is this: Every resident or indigene comes out in the morning and cleans up their environment from 7-10am. During this period, movement of people and vehicular traffic are restricted so that they can clean up the immediate environment of their homes. If you disobey this and move about, law enforcements will arrest and possibly prosecute you for sanitation day offence.
But on environmental sanitation days, some tenants who live in the same yard with you, or in the next building do not come out to cut the grass growing in their surroundings and clear their gutters. If you complain, they will quarrel with you. On one of such days, one of them came out and stood on his balcony; saw me working and said, “Una well done oh”(meaning, I salute your work). I lost my temper and angrily told him to come out and join us in the work of cleaning up our compound. Now you can understand why we are not winning the war against mosquitoes and malaria. The nonchalant attitude of the citizens the government is trying to help is a big problem. Despite all we do to fight mosquitoes, my family members still go down with malaria. This is causing pain and misery for us because we are spending so much fighting this stubborn and deadly insect and we are still sick.
(30 May 2012)
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com