Abebual Zerihun and Syed Masud Ahmed
The use of insecticidal bed nets is found to be an effective public health tool for control of malaria, especially for under-five children and pregnant women. BRAC, an indigenous Bangladeshi non-governmental development organization, started working in the East African state of Uganda in June 2006. As part of its efforts to improve the health and well-being of its participants, BRAC Uganda has been distributing long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLIN) at a subsidized price through health volunteers since February 2008. This study was conducted in March-April 2009 to examine how equitable the programme had been in consistence with BRAC Uganda’s pro-poor policy.
Information on possession of LLINs and relevant knowledge on its proper use and maintenance was collected from households either with an under-five child and/or a pregnant woman. The sample included three villages from each of the 10 branch offices where BRAC Uganda’s community-based health programme was operating. Data were collected by trained enumerators through face-to-face interviews using a hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA). Findings reveal that the study population had superficial knowledge on malaria and its transmission, including the use and maintenance of LLINs. The households’ rate of possession of bed nets (41–59%), and the proportion of under-five children (17–19%) and pregnant women (25–27%) who reported sleeping under an LLIN were not encouraging. Inequity was observed in the number of LLINs possessed by the households, in the knowledge on its use and maintenance, and between the two programme areas.
The BRAC Uganda’s LLINs distribution at a subsidized price appeared to be inadequate and inequitable, and BRAC’s knowledge dissemination is insufficient for initiating preventive actions such as proper use of LLINs to interrupt malaria transmission. Findings contribute to the on-going debate on LLINs distribution in Africa and make a strong case for its free distribution.