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Perception of malaria risk in a setting of reduced malaria transmission: a qualitative study in Zanzibar

Julie A Bauch1*, Jessica J Gu1, Mwinyi Msellem2, Andreas Mårtensson34, Abdullah S Ali2, Roly Gosling15 and Kimberly A Baltzell16

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California San Francisco, 50 Beale Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA, 94105, USA

2 Zanzibar Malaria Control Programme, Zanzibar Ministry of Health, PO Box 503, Zanzibar, Tanzania

3 Department of Medicine Solna, Malaria Research, Retzius väg 10, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Nobels väg 9, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Malaria Elimination Initiative, Global Health Group, University of California San Francisco, 50 Beale Street, Suite 1200, San Francisco, CA, 94105, USA

6 Department of Family Health Care Nursing, University of California San Francisco, 2 Koret Way, #431M, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:75  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-75

Published: 22 February 2013



Malaria transmission has declined dramatically in Zanzibar in recent years. Continuing use of preventive measures such as long-lasting insecticidal-treated nets (LLINs), and use of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are essential to prevent malaria resurgence. This study employed qualitative methods to explore community perceptions of malaria risk and adherence to prevention measures in two districts in Zanzibar.


Key informant interviews with 24 primary health care providers and 24 focus group discussions with local residents in Zanzibar districts Wete and Central were conducted during April and May 2012 focusing on perception of malaria risk, current preventive practices used, reasons for using preventive practices and effective strategies for malaria control.


Health care providers and residents appear to be aware of the decreasing incidence of malaria. Both groups continue the use of malaria preventive practices in this low and seasonal transmission setting. The most important preventive measures identified were LLINs, indoor residual spraying (IRS), and education. Barriers to malaria prevention include: lack of staff at clinics, insufficient number of LLINs distributed, and inadequate malaria education. Reasons for continued use of preventive practices include: fear of malaria returning to high levels, presence of mosquitoes during rainy seasons, and concern about local cases from other villages or imported cases from mainland Tanzania. Mosques, clinics, schools and community meetings were listed as most important sources of education. However, residents express the desire for more education.


Health care providers and residents generally reported consistent use of malaria preventive measures. However, maintaining and continuing to reduce malaria transmission will require ongoing education for both health care providers and residents to reinforce the importance of using preventive measures. Successful efforts to reduce malaria in Zanzibar will be jeopardized if residents believe that they are no longer at risk for malaria. In future studies, a year-round evaluation of the perception of malaria risk and use of preventive measures will inform the timing of education and prevention strategies for sustained malaria control.

Perception of risk; Malaria; Zanzibar; Qualitative; Focus group