Background: Implementation of malaria control strategies may face major social and cultural challenges. Hence, understanding local knowledge about malaria helps in designing sustainable community-based malaria control programmes. We designed a pilot survey in communities in the Central African Republic to evaluate recognition of malaria symptoms, perceptions of the causes of malaria and knowledge of key preventive measures.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in four districts. Households were selected by multi-stage cluster random sampling, with villages (in Lobaye, Ouham and Ouaka) and boroughs (in Bangui City) as first-stage units and households as second-stage units. A total of 2920 householders were interviewed.
Results: Most of the respondents attributed malaria to mosquito bites (65.5%), but less than 50% were familiar with the classical symptoms of malaria. Hygiene and sanitation were the most frequently mentioned methods for preventing malaria (81.1%). Despite the relatively high rate of ownership of insecticide-treated nets (72.1%), community perception of these nets as a preventive measure against mosquito bites was very low (6.5%).
Conclusions: The correct perceptions that mosquitoes cause malaria transmission and of environmental management for prevention are encouraging; however, awareness about the usefulness of insecticide treated-nets for malaria prevention must be raised. This study provided the national malaria control programme with baseline data for planning appropriate health education in communities.