What a difference a few years makes

On December 12, 2008, in malaria, research, by Karen Grepin

A few years back, it was quite rare to find people owning and using bed nets in Africa. When I first lived with a family in Burkina Faso in 2002 I was the only member of the family unit sleeping under a net (although the kids loved to play with my net). Things are changing for the better, and apparently quite rapidly, throughout the continent.

There is a group called Net Mark, who for the past few years has been collected nationally representative data on net ownership and use throughout Africa. Although DHS also has begun to collect similar data, many countries are now onto their second survey round allowing a longitudinal analysis of the changes in net ownership and use. (By the way, their data is freely available so if you were looking for some data to write a paper, you may wish to check it out).

Some early analysis of the changes in net ownership were recently released in the Malaria Journal. In the four studies they investigated (Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, and Uganda) awareness of nets increased tremendously in all 4 countries with nearly universal awareness of them by 2004. Net use also increased to nearly half of household using these nets. The last round of data was from 2004, which by malaria standards is actually quite old, so I am sure these numbers would be much higher today.

However, few things caught my eye from this study. While ownership grew a great deal, actual usage lagged behind tremendously (15-20 percentage points). So while I think we should be cautiously optimistic of the results of this study, I think we need to make sure that we realize that a lot remains to be done.

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