Community Volunteers at the Heart of Successful Mosquito Net Distribution in Ghana

Oct 2013
An evaluation of the ITN campaign in Ghana’s Northern Region showed that residents’ main source of information regarding malaria prevention and treatment was campaign volunteers.
Houses that received an ITN during the campaign are marked with a sticker that indicates the number of ITNs received and whether an ITN was hung in the home. Source: Lisa Kramer/PMI

In 2010-2012, Ghana became one of the first countries in West Africa to target all regions for universal coverage of ITNs. As Ghana prepared to distribute ITNs to its entire population, the country faced a critical question: How to hang more than 12 million nets in homes nationwide? The answer was to mobilize community volunteers on an unprecedented scale.

The success of this approach is illustrated by the story of Patricia Sarpong. The married mother of two, who lives in the Ejisu-Juaben District in Ghana’s Ashanti Region, did not want a mosquito net in her home. The nets she had used previously were not treated with insecticide, and she felt that they had not protected her family from malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. It was Teddy Boachie and Angela Tetteh, volunteers from her own community who went door-to-door to deliver and hang ITNs, who convinced her to allow ITNs in her home. When asked about her new net, Ms. Sarpong said, “I am very happy about it. I will sleep under the net every night.”

Volunteers hang ITNs in homes during a mass ITN campaign in Ghana’s Northern Region. Source: Lisa Kramer/PMI Community volunteers such as Mr. Boachie and Ms. Tetteh were essential to the ITN distribution campaign for several reasons. First, volunteers were needed because the number of people required to hang nets in all homes in the country was enormous. In Ashanti Region alone, where Ms. Sarpong lives, almost 12,000 volunteers were trained with PMI support to hang nets. In addition, the volunteers interacted one-on-one with household residents to register them and deliver messages on the importance of sleeping under nets and how to properly use and care for them. This personal interaction allowed volunteers to provide tailored advice to their fellow community members and encouraged more discussion about preventing malaria, making it more likely that the nets would be correctly used. Finally, since the volunteers came from the communities in which they were working, they were more likely to be well-received when asking to enter residents’ homes and bedrooms, where the nets needed to be hung.

An evaluation of the ITN campaign in Ghana’s Northern Region showed that residents’ main source of information regarding malaria prevention and treatment was campaign volunteers. Households that received messages were more likely to have at least one member who slept under a net the previous night compared to households that did not receive messages.

The volunteers in Ejisu-Juaben, including Mr. Boachie and Ms. Tetteh, hung about 100 nets per day, often working in sweltering conditions to ensure that households in their community were equipped with the long-lasting ITNs. When asked why she was doing this work, another community volunteer, Bella Agyapong, explained, “Malaria is a major problem in my community. When my friend asked me to help with this campaign, I agreed because I want to help the people here prevent malaria.”

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