Despite widespread interventions, community awareness of malaria and the use of malaria control tools has been worryingly low in the South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia. Most of the region’s 17 million population lives in rural areas and communicable diseases are a major public health problem in the region, with malaria the primary cause of outpatient and inpatient consultations and hospital deaths.
This is why the region’s malaria control programme has been scaled up, with interventions such as the distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs), indoor residual spraying programmes and prompt treatment with appropriate anti-malarial drugs helping to reduce the burden of malaria significantly.
However, without a fundamental change in attitudes and understanding when it comes to malaria, low awareness will continue to result in a high rate of deaths from malaria.
To help address this problem, Malaria Consortium Ethiopia implemented a Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) project across the region focusing on 47 malaria hotspot districts with funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through the Ethiopian Ministry of Health. Malaria Consortium Ethiopia’s BCC initiatives included community conversation, school anti-malaria clubs, mass sensitisation roadshow, translation of malaria related massages (posters) into local languages and dissemination of messages through local radio stations.
Community conversation is a particulary important element as it aims to help the community become empowered to participate proactively in the effort to control malaria. The initiative involved training health workers who provided orientation to community volunteers on how to lead community discussions. Their role was to correct any misconceptions raised during the discussion, help participants reach a common understanding on the burden of malaria and its consequences, identify problems on the use of interventions by the community, and develop plans and set actions to improve the use of the interventions. Some 40-50 households from each village in the 47 districts participated in discussions.
Malaria Consortium Ethiopia also helped in the setting up and strengthening of school anti-malaria clubs in selected 50 primary schools in hotspot districts. The purpose of anti-malaria school clubs is to help speed up the change in behaviour in households through informing and educating primary school children on malaria. Occasions such as a flag ceremony, parents’ day, break time, and other students’ gatherings were used by the clubs to disseminate information to the students using drama, role play, poetry, songs and competitions. In order to strengthen and sustain the activities, Malaria Consortium Ethiopia helped identify challenges and constraints and make recommendations.
Finally, a mobile van was used to run highly successful roadshows to disseminate information at community level through entertainment. People gathered in central areas and information on malaria was conveyed through music, drama and competitions.
As a result of Malaria Consortium Ethiopia’s innovative and effective BCC approaches, community awareness about malaria in SNNP Region has increased significantly. The use of LLINs, early treatment seeking and the cooperation of households for indoor residual spraying improved. Householders in the project areas are controlling potential breeding sites by flushing, draining or filling ground water collections once a week. Big gains were made in the project’s short, 13 month, lifetime, strengthening and scaling up of the project could largely impact upon awareness of malaria and up-take of anti-malaria interventions across Ethiopia.
For more information, contact [email protected]