Japanese “kaya” Saves Africans from Malaria


   Do you know of "kaya"? It is a box-shaped net hung in a bedroom to protect people from harmful insects like mosquito. In Japan, it used to be an essential bedroom gadget before a screen window and an air conditioner became commonplace. The “retro boom” in the country has brought it back into the limelight. Now, however, it is most frequently used in African countries plagued by malaria.


 Malaria is a dreadful disease for African people. An estimated 300-500 million people get affected with it across the world and more than one million of them die every year. Some 90% of the victims are African residents and most are children aged younger than five years who are less resistant. No vaccine has been developed. The sole protection is to avoid being bitten by mosquito which transmits the malaria bacillus from people to people via sucked blood.


 Japanese-style kaya has proved to be of great aid in combatting the malady. Sumitomo Chemical Company annually distributes one million units of its insecticide-glossed "Olyset Net" in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The project has been actually effective, illustrating that a Japanese culture, now out of vogue at home, is helping people in Africa.


 As the insecticide kneaded into Olyset Net was of the same substance as one contained in a harmful agricultural chemical, it drew strong criticism from some NPOs. But the company has sorted out the problem. It has also reduced the mesh size to 4 mm while retaining its air permeability.

 Needless to say, Sumitomo is not engaged in the project on a voluntary basis. It makes a profit by selling the nets at reasonable prices. The company produces the nets at its Tanzania factory. Where few money-making jobs are available, the factory offers jobs to 3,200 persons in direct employment alone. The number is three to four times more when employment in peripheral businesses like transportation and repair is counted. It is not rare in African countries for an employee to support all his or her family. So the factory supports tens of thousands of people.


 The root cause of malaria is in the filthy water, the hotbed of mosquito larvae. There is a limit to what the use of kaya can do. Moreover, there are cases where local people use well-made kaya for fishing purposes. The insecticide contained in kaya can threaten the aquatic biota. Despite the growing acceptance of kaya, the day may not come when African people can sleep at ease until the polluted water is done away with.



Written by: Yudai Kodera