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Malaria control in Malawi: are the poor being served?
Authors: Don P Mathanga and Cameron Bowie
Source: International Journal for Equity in Health, 2007; 6: 22. Published online 2007 December 2. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-6-22
Topic(s): Malaria
Country: Africa
Published: DEC 2007
Abstract: Background In Africa, national governments and international organizations are focusing on rapidly "scaling up" malaria control interventions to at least 60 percent of vulnerable populations. The potential health and economic benefits of "scaling up" will depend on the equitable access to malaria control measures by the poor. This paper analyses the present inequalities in access to malaria interventions in Malawi.Methods Equity in access to malaria control measures was assessed using the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2000 and the 2004 national survey on malaria control. Utilisation of malaria control methods was compared across the wealth quintiles, to determine whether the poor were being reached with malaria control measures.Results Overall ITN coverage increased from 5% in 2000 to 35% in 2004. However, there was a disproportionate concentration of ITNs amongst the least poor compared to the poorest group. Effective treatment of fever remains unacceptably low with only 17% of the under-five children being promptly treated with an effective antimalarial drug. And only 29 percent of pregnant women received the recommended dose of at least two doses during the pregnancy. No income related inequalities were associated with prompt treatment and IPT use.Conclusion The present distribution strategies for ITNs are not addressing the needs of the vulnerable groups, especially the poor. Increasing access to ITNs by the poor will require innovative distribution models which deliberately target the poorest of the poor.