Can school-based distribution be used to maintain coverage of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets: evidence from a large scale programme in southern Tanzania?
Many sub-Saharan African countries have achieved substantial gains in insecticide treated bednet coverage since 2005. The Tanzania National Malaria Control Programme identified school-based net distribution as one potential ‘keep-up’ strategy for the purpose of maintaining long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) coverage after a nationwide mass campaign in 2011. The School Net Programme (SNP) was implemented in three regions of southern Tanzania and distributed one LLIN to each enrolled child attending schools in primary grades (standards) 1, 3, 5 and 7, and secondary grades (forms) 2 and 4 in 2013 and again with slightly modified eligibility criteria in 2014 and 2015. Household surveys in the programme area as well as in a control area were conducted after each of the SNP distributions to measure ownership and use of long-lasting insecticide treated nets. Ownership of at least one LLIN after the first distribution was 76.1% (95% CI 70.8-80.7) in the intervention area and 78.6% (95% CI 74.4-82.3) in the control area. After the second distribution, ownership of at least one LLIN had dropped significantly in the control area to 65.4% (95% CI 59.5-71.0) in 2015 (P < 0.001), while coverage in the intervention area was maintained at 79.3% (95% CI 75.4 × 82.6). Ownership of at least one LLIN in intervention area remained stable following the second round of net distribution. During the same period LLIN ownership, especially of enough nets to ensure all household member access, fell significantly in the control area. These results demonstrate that the SNP may be sufficient to maintain stable LLIN coverage following a mass distribution of LLINs.