Background

Malaria is among the top causes of mortality and morbidity in Zambia. Efforts to control, prevent, and eliminate it have been intensified in the past two decades which has contributed to reductions in malaria prevalence and under-five mortality. However, there was a 21% upsurge in malaria prevalence between 2010 and 2015. Zambia is one of the only 13 countries to record an increase in malaria among 91 countries monitored by the World Health Organization in 2015. This study investigated the upsurge by decomposition of drivers of malaria.

Methods

The study used secondary data from three waves of nationally representative cross-sectional surveys on key malaria indicators conducted in 2010, 2012 and 2015. Using multivariable logistic regression, determinants of malaria prevalence were identified and then marginal effects of each determinant were derived. The marginal effects were then combined with changes in coverage rates of determinants between 2010 and 2015 to obtain the magnitude of how much each variable contributed to the change in the malaria prevalence.

Results

The odds ratio of malaria for those who slept under an insecticide-treated net (ITN) was 0.90 (95% CI 0.77–0.97), indoor residual spraying (IRS) was 0.66 (95% CI 0.49–0.89), urban residence was 0.23 (95% CI 0.15–0.37), standard house was 0.40 (95% CI 0.35–0.71) and age group 12–59 Months against those below 12 months was 4.04 (95% CI 2.80–5.81). Decomposition of prevalence changes by determinants showed that IRS reduced malaria prevalence by − 0.3% and ITNs by − 0.2% however, these reductions were overridden by increases in prevalence due to increases in the proportion of more at-risk children aged 12–59 months by + 2.3% and rural residents by + 2.2%.

Conclusion

The increases in interventions, such as ITNs and IRS, were shown to have contributed to malaria reduction in 2015; however, changes in demographics such as increases in the proportion of more at risk groups among under-five children and rural residents may have overridden the impact of these interventions and resulted in an overall increase. The upsurge in malaria in 2015 compared to 2010 may not have been due to weaknesses in programme interventions but due to increases in more at-risk children and rural residents compared to 2010. The apparent increase in rural residents in the sample population may not have been a true reflection of the population structure but due to oversampling in rural areas which was not fully adjusted for. The increase in malaria prevalence may therefore have been overestimated.

Peter Hangoma

Post Doctoral Researcher

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