Background: Pregnant women in malaria-endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa are especially vulnerable to malaria. Recommended prevention strategies include intermittent preventive treatment with two doses of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and the use of insecticide-treated nets. However, progress with implementation has been slow and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership target of 80% coverage of both interventions by 2010 has not been met. We aimed to review the coverage of intermittent preventive treatment, insecticide-treated nets, and antenatal care for pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa and to explore associations between coverage and individual and country-level factors, including the role of funding for malaria prevention.
Methods: We used data from nationally representative household surveys from 2009-11 to estimate coverage of intermittent preventive treatment, use of insecticide-treated nets, and attendance at antenatal clinics by pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. Using demographic data for births and published data for malaria exposure, we also estimated the number of malaria-exposed births (livebirths and stillbirths combined) for 2010 by country. We used meta-regression analysis to investigate the factors associated with coverage of intermittent preventive treatment and use of insecticide-treated nets.
Results: Of the 21·4 million estimated malaria-exposed births across 27 countries in 2010, an estimated 4·6 million (21·5%, 95% CI 19·3-23·7) were born to mothers who received intermittent preventive treatment. Insecticide-treated nets were used during pregnancy for 10·5 million of 26·9 million births across 37 countries (38·8%, 34·6-43·0). Antenatal care was attended at least once by 16·3 of 20·8 million women in 2010 (78·3%, 75·2-81·4; n=26 countries) and at least twice by 14·7 of 19·6 million women (75·1%, 72·9-77·3; n=22 countries). For the countries with previous estimates for 2007, coverage of intermittent preventive treatment increased from 13·1% (11·9-14·3) to 21·2% (18·9-23·5; n=14 countries) and use of insecticide-treated nets increased from 17·9% (15·1-20·7) to 41·6% (37·2-46·0; n=24 countries) in 2010. A fall in coverage by more than 10% was seen in two of 24 countries for intermittent preventive treatment and in three of 30 countries for insecticide-treated nets. High disbursement of funds for malaria control and a long time interval since adoption of the relevant policy were associated with the highest coverage of intermittent preventive treatment. High disbursement of funds for malaria control and high total fertility rate were associated with the greatest use of insecticide-treated nets, whereas a high per-head gross domestic product (GDP) was associated with less use of nets than was a lower GDP. Coverage of intermittent preventive treatment showed greater inequity overall than use of insecticide-treated nets, with richer, educated, and urban women more likely to receive preventive treatment than their poorer, uneducated, rural counterparts.
Interpretation: Although coverage of intermittent preventive treatment and use of insecticide-treated nets by pregnant women has increased in most countries, coverage remains far below international targets, despite fairly high rates of attendance at antenatal clinics. The effect of the implementation of WHO's 2012 policy update for intermittent preventive treatment, which aims to simplify the message and align preventive treatment with the focused antenatal care schedule, should be assessed to find out whether it leads to improvements in coverage.
Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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