According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global response to malaria is at a crossroads. After an unprecedented period of success in malaria control, progress has stalled. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries, 5 million more than the 211 million cases reported in 2015. Malaria continues to claim a significant number of lives.
Even though WHO recommends that every person at risk from malaria should sleep under an insecticide-treated net (ITN), only half of at-risk sub-Saharan Africans adopted this practice in 2015. These nets, designed to block mosquitoes physically, have been treated with safe, residual insecticide for the purpose of killing and repelling mosquitoes, which carry malaria.
One of the key challenges facing global malaria control and elimination in the Sustainable Development Goals era is increasing and sustaining ITN coverage. However, encouraging ITN use goes beyond simply providing effective and affordable interventions. Systemic social barriers to their use, such as poverty and a lack of physical security also need to be considered.
Strategic communication to facilitate and sustain changes in social norms and behaviors is integral to malaria control programs according to the Strategic Framework for Malaria Social and Behaviour Change Communication.
Malaria by the numbers
- WHO estimates that 438,000 people died because of malaria in 2015; the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Global Burden of Disease (GBD) puts this estimate at 720,000.
- 72% of malaria fatalities are children younger than 5 years old. It is one of the leading causes of child mortality. Every tenth child that died in 2016, died because of malaria.
SUPPORTING BEHAVIOR CHANGE TO PREVENT MALARIA
In 2013, Amplio partnered with UNICEF to use the Talking Book to reach 44,000 people in 49 communities in Ghana’s Upper West Region. The objective of the program was to improve the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAPs) of a broad range of behaviors including the adoption and proper use of ITNs.
We believe more progress could be made by addressing the lack of access to soap and running water, which remains a huge challenge for remote communities. A common response during focus groups was that people working out on farms do not have soap which acts as a barrier to washing hands at critical moments like “after defecating”, “before eating”, or “before feeding a child”.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“You are saying we should always sleep under an ITN each night but what of in the evening when we are yet to go to bed, if a mosquito bites you, can you also get malaria”? (Submitted by a child)