The full 2017 Malaria Indicator Survey (MIS) results have been published for Tanzania providing an opportunity to look at the findings in more detail. Several important factors need highlighting since Tanzania is part of a regional block where some countries are activly considering malaria elimination – the E8 countries of the Southern Africa Development Community.
So far Tanzania has come close to achieving a target of 80% of households owning insecticide treated nets (ITNs) with 78% on the mainland and 79% in Zanzibar. A closer look shows that there is still a ways to go to get to universal coverage or at least one net for every two persons in the household. With this indicator 45% of mainland and 42% of Zanzibar households have met the target, meaning that there are unprotected people in a majority of households across the country. This indicator experienced a drop from a 2011 “high” of 56%, a drop to 39% in 2015 and a slight recovery to 45% in 2017.
Even the universal coverage target requires that people actually sleep under the nets. What the MIS report shows is that although 63% of people had access to an ITN, only 52% reported sleeping under one the night before the survey.
Equity remains an issue with 69% of households in the lowest wealth quintile owning at least one net compared to 81% and 83% in the middle and fourth quintiles. Although households in the highest quintile had 78% ownership, this group is more likely to live in better quality housing that prevents the ingress of most mosquitoes. Also residents in urban areas have an edge over rural counterparts in terms of net access.
We learn that 90% of existing nets were obtained through some form of public sector campaign including mass distribution (62%), village coupons redeemable at health centers (15%), and school campaigns (4%). Only 5% were obtained through routine services (ANC, child immunization) indicating that efforts to ‘keep up’ after mass campaigns need to be strengthened. The 10% of nets, whether treated or not, that were obtained in shops and markets cost the owner in the neighborhood of US$5.00.
Uptake of doses of intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in pregnancy has slowly but steadily increased over the past 15 years and stood at 83% for one dose, 56% for two doses and 26% for three in this most recent MIS. With the current target being three or more doses needed for optimal protection, Tanzania still has a far long way to go, especially considering that accessing ITNs through ANC services is also low..