Background: The housing stock of rural sub-Saharan Africa is changing rapidly. With millions of new homes required over the coming decades, there is an opportunity to protect residents by screening homes from malaria mosquitoes. This study, undertaken in the Upper River Region of The Gambia, explores local perceptions of what a good house should provide for its inhabitants and responses to living in a house that has been modified as part of a randomized control trial designed to assess whether improved housing provided additional protection against clinical malaria in children (the RooPfs trial).
Methods: This descriptive, exploratory study was undertaken over 22 months using mixed-methods (informal conversations, observations, focus group discussions, photovoice, and a questionnaire survey) in a parallel convergent design. Analysis was conducted across the data sets using a framework approach. Following coding, the textual data were charted by a priori and emerging themes. These themes were compared with the quantitative survey results. The nature and range of views about housing and the RooPfs study modifications and the relationships among them were identified and described.
Results: The data were derived from a total of 35 sets of observations and informal conversations in 10 villages, 12 discussions with the photovoice photographers, 26 focus group discussions (across 13 villages) and 391 completed questionnaires. The study participants described a 'good house' as one with a corrugate-metal roof, cement walls (preferably cement block, but mud block covered with cement plaster was also an acceptable and cheaper substitute) and well-fitting doors. These features align with local perceptions of a modern house that provides social status and protection from physical harms. The RooPfs modifications were largely appreciated, although poor workmanship caused concerns that houses had become insecure. However, the long-term trusting relationship with the implementing institution and the actions taken to rectify problems provided reassurance and enhanced acceptability.
Conclusion: In developing housing to address population needs in Africa, attention should be paid to local perceptions of what is required to make a house secure for its inhabitants, as well as providing a healthy environment.
Keywords: Acceptability; Housing; Malaria; Perceptions.
© 2022. The Author(s).