Despite the significant reduction of malaria transmission in Rwanda, Ruhuha sector is still a highly endemic area for malaria. The objective of this activity was to explore and brainstorm the potential roles of various community stakeholders in malaria elimination.
Horizontal participatory approaches such as ‘open space’ have been deployed to explore local priorities, stimulate community contribution to project planning, and to promote local capacity to manage programmes. Two open space meetings were conducted with 62 and 82 participants in years 1 and 2, respectively. Participants included purposively selected community and local organizations’ representatives.
Malaria was perceived as a health concern by the respondents despite the reported reduction in prevalence from 60 to 20% for cases at the local health centre. Some misconceptions of the cause of malaria and misuse of preventive strategies were noted. Poverty was deemed to be a contributing factor to malaria transmission, with suggestions that improvement of living conditions for poor families might help malaria reduction. Participants expressed willingness to contribute to malaria elimination and underscored the need for constant education, sensitization and mobilization towards malaria control in general. Active diagnosis, preventative strategies and prompt treatment of malaria cases were all mentioned by participants as ways to reduce malaria. Participants suggested that partnership of stakeholders at various levels could speed up programme activities. A community rewards system was deemed important to motivate engaged participants, i.e., community health workers and households. Establishment of malaria clubs in schools settings was also suggested as crucial to speed up community awareness and increase skills towards further malaria reduction.
This bottom-up approach was found useful in engaging the local community, enabling them to explore issues related to malaria in the area and suggest solutions for sustainable malaria elimination gains.