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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2014 Jan-Mar;3(1):41-45. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.206882.

Barriers to malaria control in rural south-west Timor-Leste: a qualitative analysis.

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Department of Community Health Development, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.
Childfund, Rua Governador, Laserda de Maia, Vila Verde, Dili, Timor-Leste.



Malaria is an important health problem in Timor-Leste. Although funding has been provided to reduce the burden of this disease, few studies have investigated whether this has improved malaria-related knowledge, management of symptoms, and treatment in rural communities. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions and practices undertaken in relation to all aspects of malaria control by members of two rural communities in Timor-Leste.


A qualitative study was undertaken in two rural hamlets in Timor-Leste. Research methods included transect walks, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Content analysis was used to identify themes.


The location of the hamlets near rice fields, leaking taps, inadequate water supplies and dumping of waste from the local hospital provided opportunities for mosquitoes to breed. Most participants were aware of the link between mosquitoes and malaria, but a lack of control over their environment was a major barrierto preventing malaria. The distribution ofbed nets had occurred once, and was the only intervention undertaken bythe National Malaria Control Programme. However, limiting the distribution of bed nets to pregnant women and children aged under 5 years had resulted in some focus group respondents believing that only those in these groups could be affected by malaria. Self-diagnosis and home treatmentwere common. Treatment for unresolved infections depended on access to transport funds, and belief in the power of traditional healers.


Improvements in infrastructure, empowerment of rural communities, and better access to treatment are recommended if the incidence of malaria is to be reduced throughout the country.

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