Background: Household ownership of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) is increasing, and coverage targets have been revised to address universal coverage with ITNs. However, many households do not have enough nets to cover everyone, and the nets available vary in physical condition and insecticide treatment status. Since 2004, the Government of Tanzania has been implementing the Tanzania National Voucher Scheme (TNVS), which distributes vouchers for ITNs through antenatal clinics to target pregnant women and their infants. This analysis aimed to determine the following: (1) coverage patterns of bed nets within households according to physical condition and treatment status; (2) who might be at risk if mosquitoes were diverted from occupants of untreated nets to those not using nets? (3) the degree to which those at highest risk of malaria use the most protective nets.
Methods: Data from the 2006 TNVS household survey were analysed to assess within-household distribution of net use. The associations between net characteristics and net user were also evaluated. Multivariate analysis was applied to the relationship between the number of holes per net and user characteristics while adjusting for confounders.
Results: In households with a net:person ratio better than 1:4 (one net for every four household members), more than 80% of the people in such households reported using a net the previous night. ITNs were most likely to be used by infants, young children (1-4 y), and women of childbearing age; they were least likely to be used by older women (>or=50 y), older children (5-14 y), and adult men. The nets used by infants and women of childbearing age were in better-than-average physical condition; the nets used by older women and older children were in worse-than-average condition; while young children and adult men used nets in intermediate (average) condition. When adjusted for confounders, the nets used by young and older children had more holes than nets used by infants.
Conclusions: Infants and other vulnerable groups were most likely to sleep under the most protective nets. Nevertheless, more communication efforts are needed to increase use of intact ITNs within households for children. Further research is necessary to fully understand motivations influencing within-household net distribution.