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STUDY: Housing improvement a “critical component” in malaria control

March 10, 2023
STUDY: Housing improvement a “critical component” in malaria control
Typical housing structures captured in the study sites. PHOTO | COURTESY/Malaria Journal/R.M. Bofu

Well-constructed and mosquito-proofed houses can reduce malaria risk, a new study has revealed. The study, which assessed housing improvements for malaria control, was conducted by Ifakara Health Institute scientists along with colleagues from the UK, US and South Africa.

In the study, published in the Malaria Journal on February 27, 2023, the scientists address the need for housing improvement as a “critical component” of malaria control efforts and suggest the intervention be included in the malaria control toolboxes.

The scientists contributing to the study included Ramadhani Bofu, Betwel Msugupakulya, Najat Kahamba, Rukiyah Njalambaha, Fredros Okumu, and Marceline Finda from Ifakara. Others include Ellen Santos from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA; Joseph Swilla from The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania; Ann Kelly from King's College London, UK; Javier Lezaun from the University of Oxford, UK; and Nicola Christofides from University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Thousands of participants were involved in the study across 19 villages within the Mlimba, Malinyi and Ulanga district councils and the Ifakara Town Council – all in the Kilombero valley, in southern Tanzania.
Through surveys, direct observations, market analysis and focus group discussions, the scientists assessed and explored a total of 1,352 community members’ preferences, needs, perceptions and opportunities for housing improvement as a malaria control intervention.

Findings showed that a majority of the community members surveyed understood and supported the notion of housing improvement as an intervention for malaria control. The majority of the respondents also acknowledged their housing needed modest modifications and had plans to work on the modifications such as window screening, repair of holes in walls, door covers, closing of eaves, and better roofs.

However, due to financial constraints and without additional support, efforts to improve their homes were generally slow, and “households would take years to sufficiently mosquito-proof their houses,” revealed the scientists.

Addressing the constraints, the community members suggested several mechanisms of support to improve their homes, including government loans and subsidies. Additionally, the scientists also recommended key players across sectors come together to reduce barriers to malaria-proofing housing in an endemic setting.

“It is important to bring together all the key players in the housing sector to reduce barriers in malaria-proofing housing in an endemic setting. These may include government subsidies or partnerships with businesses to make housing improvement more accessible and affordable to residents.”

The scientists also urged fellow scientists to generate and disseminate knowledge and evidence on what housing modifications can provide protection against malaria.

“Due to inadequate evidence of the potential of housing improvement for malaria control, this strategy lacks support among the country’s top decision-makers. It is, therefore, highly necessary for scientists to generate and disseminate knowledge and evidence on what housing modifications can result in optimal success in providing protection against malaria and other infectious diseases.

>> Read the full publication here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36849883/
>> Read other Ifakara publications here: https://ihi.or.tz/publications/journals-paper