In our analysis of bednet distribution programs, we considered the likelihood that a distributed bednet was ultimately used for its intended purpose: to protect against malaria.
The Malaria Matters blog recently posted links to numerous examples of nets used for other purposes:
Net stories include use for fishing in Zambia, as bridal veils in Zambia and other countries and trapping edible ants in Uganda. These problems arise when LLIN distribution programs focus on the wrong numbers. It is not enough to say how many hundreds of nets have been distributed in a community. The real concern is whether they are used correctly and for the intended purpose.
The post also notes that:
The three most popular reasons for using bednets to dry fish were: fish dry faster on these nets, they don’t stick and not surprisingly, these nets are cheaper.
On the one hand, it’s important for donors to know what their donations accomplish, and if donors’ aim is to prevent malaria, the above stories provide evidence of the types of problems that can occur with unmonitored aid. On the other hand, if people are buying nets and using them in other ways that improve their lives – even if it’s not malaria prevention – it’s not clear to me that that impact isn’t worth considering as well.