“Maskandi experience”: exploring the use of a cultural song for community engagement in preparation for a pilot Sterile Insect Technique release programme for malaria vector control in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa 2019

P. N. Manana, S. Jewett, J. Zikhali, D. Dlamini, N. Mabaso, Z. Mlambo, R. Ngobese and G. Munhenga,  Malaria Journal,  20:11. 2021.

Background An assessment of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) as a complementary malaria vector control tool, is at an advanced stage in South Africa. The technique involves the release of laboratory-reared sterilized male mosquitoes of the major malaria vector Anopheles arabiensis, raising social, ethical and regulatory concerns. Therefore, its implementation largely depends on community participation and acceptance. Against this background, it is critical that robust and effective community strategies are developed. This study describes the development of a cultural song to engage the community and increase awareness on SIT and malaria control in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Methods An exploratory concurrent mixed-methods study was conducted to get opinions about the effectiveness of a cultural song developed to engage communities and increase acceptability of the SIT technology. Two self-administered surveys (expert and community) were conducted. Additionally, more in depth opinions of the song and its effectiveness in conveying the intended information were investigated through three community dialogue sessions with community members in the study area. Results A total of 40 experts and 54 community members participated in the survey. Four themes were identified in relation to the appropriateness and effectiveness of the song, with a fifth theme focused on recommendations for adaptations. Overall, the song was well received with the audience finding it entertaining and informative. Responses to unstructured questions posed after the song showed an increase in the knowledge on malaria transmission and SIT technology. In particular, the explanation that male mosquitoes do not bite allayed anxiety and fears about the SIT technology. Conclusion The song was deemed both culturally appropriate and informative in engaging community members about the SIT technology. It proved useful in promoting health messages and conveying SIT technology as a complementary malaria vector control tool. With minor adaptations, the song has potential as an area-wide community engagement tool in areas targeted for sterile male releases.


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