The importance of understanding the local context: women’s perceptions and knowledge concerning malaria in pregnancy in rural Malawi

Author: Launiala, A.; Kulmala, T.

Description: A current problem of malaria prevention programs is that not enough attention is paid to understanding the local socio-cultural context prior to program implementation. The aim of this study is to discover how Yao women in rural Malawi understand and explain malaria in pregnancy, how they perceive it and what type of knowledge they have on it. Women’s knowledge of the adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy is also investigated. At first phase a total of 34 in-depth interviews were conducted. At second phase a KAP survey (n=248) was conducted for cross-validation of the qualitative information. The findings showed that there is neither a vernacular word for malaria nor malaria in pregnancy. Women used a local word, malungo, to refer to malaria. Malungo is an ambiguous disease term because of its multiple meanings which are used interchangeably to refer to many types of feverish illnesses of various causes, not only malaria. Most women did not perceive malungo during pregnancy as a serious illness. There were several other diseases from anaemia, STDs to cholera etc. that were perceived to be more dangerous than malungo. The local meaning of malungo also entailed an assumption that it is a common but fairly harmless illness. Women had limited knowledge of the adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy, the best-known adverse effect being miscarriage (28%, 52/189). A socio-cultural understanding of the implementation context is prerequisite for planning meaningful programs for the pregnant women in rural Africa.

Subject headings: Adolescent; Adult; Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Humans; Interviews as Topic; Malaria/ethnology/parasitology/prevention & control; Malawi; Pregnancy; Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic/ethnology/parasitology/prevention & control; Questionnaires; Rural Population

Publication year: 2006

Journal or book title: Acta Tropica

Volume: 98

Issue: 2

Pages: 111-117

Find the full text :

Find more like this one (cited by):,16&hl=en

Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 164