Incidence of clinical malaria, acute respiratory illness, and diarrhoea in children in southern Malawi: a prospective cohort study

Tinashe A. Tizifa*, Alinune N. Kabaghe, Robert S. McCann, William Nkhono, Spencer Mtengula, Willem Takken, Kamija S. Phiri, Michele van Vugt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and diarrhoea are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years old. Estimates of the malaria incidence are available from a previous study conducted in southern Malawi in the absence of community-led malaria control strategies; however, the incidence of the other diseases is lacking, owing to understudying and competing disease priorities. Extensive malaria control measures through a community participation strategy were implemented in Chikwawa, southern Malawi from May 2016 to reduce parasite prevalence and incidence. This study assessed the incidence of clinical malaria, ARIs and acute diarrhoea among under-five children in a rural community involved in malaria control through community participation. Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted from September 2017 to May 2019 in Chikwawa district, southern Malawi. Children aged 6–48 months were recruited from a series of repeated cross-sectional household surveys. Recruited children were followed up two-monthly for 1 year to record details of any clinic visits to designated health facilities. Incidence of clinical malaria, ARIs and diarrhoea per child-years at risk was estimated, compared between age groups, area of residence and time. Results: A total of 274 out of 281 children recruited children had complete results and contributed 235.7 child-years. Malaria incidence was 0.5 (95% CI (0.4, 0.5)) cases per child-years at risk, (0.04 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.5 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.6 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds). Incidences of ARIs and diarrhoea were 0.3 (95% CI (0.2, 0.3)), (0.1 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.4 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.3 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds), and 0.2 (95% CI (0.2, 0.3)), (0.1 in 6.0–11.9 month-olds, 0.3 in 12.0–23.9 month-olds, 0.2 in 24.0–59.9 month-olds) cases per child-years at risk, respectively. There were temporal variations of malaria and ARI incidence and an overall decrease over time. Conclusion: In comparison to previous studies, there was a lower incidence of clinical malaria in Chikwawa. The incidence of ARIs and diarrhoea were also low and decreased over time. The results are promising because they highlight the importance of community participation and the integration of malaria prevention strategies in contributing to disease burden reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number473
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • Acute respiratory infections
  • Community engagement
  • Diarrhoea
  • Incidence
  • Malaria
  • Malawi
  • Under-five children


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