Community Engagement: An Effective Tool towards Malaria Elimination in Nigeria
Yakubu Garuba is the Roll Back Malaria Focal Person in Bosso LGA, Niger State – a position he has held for two years. He has championed the decrease in the Malaria Burden in Bosso Local Government Area by engaging communities to support Primary Health Care (PHC) through learning and action using the Ward Development Committee (WDC) meetings as a platform to reduce the burden of communicable diseases, especially Malaria amongst the people.
The WDC was designed and developed as a social strategy for encouraging community participation and access to primary health care services. It helps to ensure complete ownership by members of the community of all primary health issues such as Health Promotion and Community mobilization, Maternal and Newborn Child Health services, Nutrition, Control of Communicable and Non-communicable diseases and Sexual and Reproductive Health.
The Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) has been a Sub Recipient to the National Malaria Elimination Program (NMEP) on the Global Fund Round 8 , Phase 1&2 Malaria Project, since 2010. ARFH has trained and supported Local government Roll Back Malaria Focal Persons like Yakubu Garuba since 2010 to strengthen WDC were they exist, reactivate non-functional WDCs and successfully facilitate quarterly WDC meetings to enhance community ownership. Such meetings have become veritable grounds for discussing health and other developmental issues affecting the community. Issues which range from inter-tribal conflicts, misconceptions on the use of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLIN), taboos and superstitions, which have negative impact on health. It is an avenue to provide corrections and foster close relationship between health workers and the people.
Mr Yakubu shares a recent story of the impact of the WDC:
There are two main tribes in Shattta; Fulani and Gbwaris. These groups both use the primary health centre located in Shattta. I observed after looking at the records that Fulani women did not receive LLIN during antenatal care clinics (ANC) at the PHC, i asked the health workers why this was so and they responded that Fulani women refused LLINs because their Husbands told them LLINs could not protect them and their children from malaria. (This is one of such misconceptions)However, during one of the WDC meetings, the Fulani leader complained to the Community head that a number of their pregnant women and children were falling sick with malaria and making more visits to the PHC for treatment. The Community head responded that fewer Gwari women and children were sick with malaria because they slept inside LLINs with their children every night. . The Fulani leader acknowledged their folly for preventing their women from sleeping inside the nets and promised to ensure their women collect LLINs during ANC and sleep inside them every night.
Mr Yakubu later recounted how the WDC meeting afterwards had a drama organised and directed by the Role Model Caregivers (RMCs) in that community to address misconceptions of the Fulani tribe in Shattta ward, which further encouraged and reinforced the importance of LLIN ownership and utilization.