Community members: ‘We know [IRS] is working because we can smell it.’

Abu Adam reviews equipment stored for the upcoming spraying season in Savelugu District.

Abu Adam, AIRS Ghana operations manager, reviews equipment stored for the upcoming spraying season in Savelugu District.

In Ghana, malaria is the number one cause of illness. To address this life-threatening disease, AIRS implements indoor residual spraying (IRS) to kill mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

Community education and cooperation are essential in IRS programs, to ensure that a high number of households accept to be sprayed. Higher coverage ensures protected families and communities, and a reduced malaria burden.

Abu Adam, the IRS operations coordinator in the Savelugu district, works closely with community members to build acceptance of IRS. “We work a lot to educate the community and urge them to have their houses sprayed. We always aim to exceed our target of at least 85 percent coverage. It’s a bit of work for families to prepare their homes for spraying, so we encourage them and even help them.”

“Households accepting spraying had declined in the last few years, until 2012 when we switched to a new insecticide, Actellic. It is effective for up to eight months after the walls are sprayed—which suits our long malaria transmission season. The chemical has a pungent smell, which worried us, but we discovered it was to our advantage. Beneficiaries said, ‘We know it’s working because we can smell it.’ The number of households accepting IRS in Savelugu increased from 39,000 in 2011 to 45,000 in 2012.”

At Savelugu Hospital, hospital administrator Helen Tetley reports that malaria remains the top cause of morbidity and mortality, but concedes that the hospital statistics show an encouraging trend. The number of suspected malaria cases referred to the hospital remains steady, while the number of cases confirmed to be malaria is declining. In 2010 46 percent of referred fever cases were found to be malaria, while in 2011, 34 percent of referred cases were malaria, and during the period January-June 2012, only 22 percent were confirmed to be malaria.

Community health nurse Christie Aduku provides prenatal services for expectant mothers at Moglaa Health Center, Savelugu District. In addition to household spraying, she advises mothers to use insecticide treated bed nets, and to take intermittent preventive treatment for malaria. “I haven’t seen a case of malaria among the mothers I follow during this entire year.”

The President’s Malaria Initiative-supported Africa Indoor Residual Spraying (AIRS) program operates in 9 of the 20 districts in Northern Ghana. In 2012, AIRS sprayed 355,278 structures and protected 941,240 people from malaria, including 21,774 pregnant women and 188,696 children under five.

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