Uganda accounted for 4% of the global malaria cases in 2016 and had the seventh highest number of malaria cases in Africa, with 7.7 million cases in 2017.
Worse still, the country had the tenth highest number of annual malarial deaths in 2016, with 12,060 deaths according to the 2014 Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan (UMRSP).
Over the years, the Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Health has been intervening to reduce malaria cases and deaths in the country, one of the measures employed being advocacy and behavioural change communication.
The 2010–2015 National Malaria Strategic Plan recognized Advocacy, Social Mobilization and Behaviour Change Communication (ASBCC) as an essential element of malaria control efforts in the country.
As such, a communication strategy was developed to harmonize activities of the National Malaria Control Programme and partners according to the Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan (UMRSP) 2014-2010.
Manifestations of Behavioural Change Communication and Advocacy in the fight against malaria
Social Behavioural Change Communication, as per the prevention of malaria in Uganda, has been witnessed with the fascinating “Katoto” episodes on Television and social media sites like twitter and Facebook, that carry messages intended to provoke actions that promote malaria prevention and elimination.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine uses her own social media sites to disseminate information intended to create awareness and also advocate for sleeping under treated mosquito nets.
Dr Jimmy Opigo, the program manager of National Malaria Control Programme has spearheaded the sensitization of the masses on malaria preventative measures, including the proper use of mosquito nets.
He recently highlighted that in addition to using the mosquito nets, their proper usage and care are key. This involves washing and repairing the nets when need arises.
“A mosquito net can be washed up to 20 times and it should not be exposed to extreme heat. After 3 years, the net should be replaced with a new one,” he said.
Such communication is intended to change the behaviour of the people and lure them into adopting the ideas geared towards keeping malaria at bay.
Leaders, including religious ministers, have been engaged so that they spread the malaria prevention message to the people they interact with.
One of the reasons as to why the Malaria Free Board was enacted is to reinforce advocacy. The board members are therefore expected to provide advocacy across various sectors on malaria preventative measures.
Under the Net Campaign
In June 2020, the ‘Under the Net’ campaign was launched by the Ministry of Health to create awareness on the need to sleep under treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria.
The ‘COVID smart’ campaign was organised in a wave format, starting with districts with the highest prevalence of malaria and those affected by floods.
This saw 25 districts covered in wave 1 and 28 districts covered in wave 2. A total of 27.5 million Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets will be distributed to Ugandans.
The next wave, wave 3, is expected to cover a total of 39 districts including; Bukomansimbi, Kalungu, Kyenjojo, Kyotera, Luweero, Lwengo, Masaka, Mityana, Mpigi, Hoima, Butambala, Iganga, Kitagwenda, Kamwenge, Gomba, Rakai, Kikuube, Ngora, Katakwi, Amuria, Oyam, Kole, Kumi, Bukedea, Agago, Manafwa, Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Kapelebyong, Karenga, Kotido, Kiryandongo, Masindi, Buliisa, Moroto, Nabilatuk, Nakapiripiriti and Napak.
The Ministry of Health, therefore, urges people to register with their Village Health Teams to be able to receive the nets once their districts are being covered.