Creating Malaria Awareness to Strengthen Maternal Health in Ghana
Updated: Sep 14
Challenges and Achievements: Partnering with Ghana Health Services on SBCC for the National Malaria Elimination Project
Recently, I sat down with Amplio Ghana’s monitoring and evaluation officer Toffic Dapilaah to discuss Ghana’s National Malaria Elimination (NME) program. In 2022, Amplio partnered with Ghana Health Services on a community-level social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaign to raise awareness about malaria prevention and reduce malaria mortality in three districts in the Upper West Region. The project was supported by the Global Fund.
Toffic oversaw the NME project, partnering with local health authorities to implement SBCC activities across 15 communities in Wa West, Jirapa, and Sissala West districts. The project team had two core goals: ensuring that pregnant women received their full doses of Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) and educating communities about malaria prevention.
Sensitization, Education, and School Outreach
Over six months, Amplio Ghana conducted SBCC activities in schools, mosques, churches, markets, and durbars (traditional gatherings convened by Chiefs, elders, and opinion leaders). The team also organized radio call-in shows and supported monitoring and evaluation, collecting data on pregnant women and connecting them to health services.
Toffic highlighted the importance of engaging communities through different channels. Notably, school sensitization sessions stood out as particularly effective. These sessions provided vital knowledge about malaria prevention to children, highlighting the unique risks faced by pregnant women due to malaria infections. Interactive engagement with students helped underline the importance of preventive measures for the well-being of both mothers and babies.
“We engaged with students from primary schools, junior high schools, and senior high schools, educating them about malaria prevention. What struck me was how impactful it was to teach them about Intermittent Preventive Treatment using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) as a safe, life-saving medical intervention. Through this, we conveyed the critical nature of preventing malaria infections in pregnant women, as the consequences could be severe for both the mother and the baby. This interactive approach generated thought-provoking questions, enabling us to explain the heightened vulnerability of pregnant women due to their altered immune systems."
Leveraging Traditional Community Outreach Channels
Toffic highlighted the value of diverse communication methods in driving behavioral change. While Amplio Ghana typically leverages its Talking Book technology, the NME project tapped into traditional community outreach methods. These included community meetings, radio discussions, and engagements with religious institutions. This holistic approach ensured that the project’s message reached individuals in various contexts, reinforcing the importance of malaria prevention.
“In our efforts to instigate social and behavioral change, we consistently involve local leaders and influencers. This includes religious leaders as well as traditional leaders such as chiefs and queen mothers. Their endorsement helps us reach a wider audience, build trust, and ensure consistent messaging for all.”
Overcoming Challenges for a Brighter Future
Altogether, the NME project reached about 82,000 people. Despite this success, Toffic acknowledged challenges stemming from limited resources and funding. The project's potential impact could be significantly enhanced with increased support to expand its efforts. This would enable the project to reach more communities and individuals, making a more profound difference in the fight against malaria.
"Without a doubt, the work we accomplished with the Ghana National Malaria Elimination Project was wonderful, but the reality was that funding remains a challenge. When funding from organizations like the Global Fund was distributed, it was divided among over 50 NGOs across Ghana. Each NGO received a small share, which didn't fully support the extensive outreach and the ongoing behavior change activities required. For example, for the NME sensitization project, we received funding for just one loudspeaker and one motorbike."
Drawing from his understanding of the project's dynamics, Toffic suggested a promising direction for future growth. "If we had more funding to continue and scale the NME project, I would propose integrating the Talking Book as an additional communication channel. By placing Talking Books in mosques, churches, and schools, we could engage a broader audience. Schools could organize listening and discussion groups, allowing students to replay messages to reinforce learning. This approach would also allow us to broadcast Talking Book messages in public spaces, ensuring consistent and accurate delivery."
Partnerships for a Malaria-Free Future
Notably, when the project ended, Amplio Ghana's work was recognized by the Ministry of Health as a national model for financial reporting, transparency, and project impact.
Toffic emphasized the collaborative spirit of the project, highlighting key partners like the Ghana Health Service for their pivotal role in realizing the project's objectives. The project's success is a testament to the power of partnerships in driving positive change.
A Call to Action for Sustainable Impact
As Toffic reflected on the NME project’s achievements and aspirations, he emphasized the need for sustained funding to expand its reach and impact.
“In the communities where we work, there are many barriers to health knowledge. There are high rates of illiteracy, and we also need to address cultural norms and gender inequalities. For example, it’s critical to reach and engage men about the importance of taking their pregnant wives and daughters to receive IPT-p and antenatal care services. With additional resources, the project could continue its mission of empowering communities to eliminate malaria and improve maternal health, making way for a brighter, healthier future for all.”
The Global Fund is the world's largest financier of AIDS, TB, and malaria prevention, treatment, and care programs. Learn about the Global Fund's malaria initiative.