New article: Few pregnant women seek health care in Gedeo in southern Ethiopia

Borde MT, Loha E, Johansson KA, Lindtjorn B (2019) Utilisation of health services fails to meet the needs of pregnancy-related illnesses in rural southern Ethiopia: A prospective cohort study. PLoS ONE 14(12): e0215195.

Although maternal survival has improved in the last decades, evidence on illnesses and the use of health services during pregnancy remains scarce. Therefore, we aimed to assess the incidence and risk factors for illnesses among pregnant women and measure the use of health services. A prospective cohort study was conducted in three kebeles in rural southern Ethiopia among 794 pregnant women from May 2017 to July 2018. Each woman was followed every two weeks at home. Poisson and survival regression models were used for analysis. The incidence rate of episodes of illnesses was 93 per 100 pregnant-woman-weeks (95%CI: 90.6, 94.2), with an average of eight episodes of illnesses per woman. Anaemia accounted for 22% (177 of 794 women), and hypertension 3% (21 women of 794 women). However, utilization of health services for any illness episodes was only 8% (95%CI: 7.6%, 8.9%). The main reasons for not using health services were that the women thought the illness would heal by itself, women thought the illness was not serious, women could not afford to visit the health institutions, or women lacked confidence in the health institutions. The risk factors for illnesses are having many previous pregnancies in life time (ARR = 1.42; 95%CI = 1.02, 1.96), having history of stillbirth (ARR = 1.30; 95%CI = 1.03, 1.64), having history of abortion (AHR = 1.06; 95%CI = 1.02, 1.11), and walking more than 60 minutes to access the nearest hospital (AHR = 1.08; 95%CI = 1.03, 1.14). The risk factors for low use of health services are also having history of abortion (AHR = 2.50; 95%CI = 1.00, 6.01) and walking more than 60 minutes to access the nearest hospital (AHR = 1.91; 95%CI = 1.00, 3.63). Rural Ethiopian pregnant women experience a high burden of illness during pregnancy. Unfortunately, very few of these women utilize health services.

Book Chapter: Developing a sustainable PhD programme: Experiences from southern Ethiiopia

We recently published a chapter about the ideas behind the development of our SENUPH programme in southern Ethiopia:

Lindtjørn, Bernt, Moges Tadesse, and Eskindir Loha. “Developing a Sustainable Phd Programme: Experiences from Southern Ethiopia “ Chap. 18 In Sharing Knowledge Transforming Societies. The Norhed Programme 2013 – 2020, edited by Tor Halvorsen, KS Orgeret and R Krøvel, 442-56. Cape Town, Bergen: African Minds and University of Bergen, 2019.

See book chapter here Lindtjorn-NORHED chapter 18

Reducing poverty

Intervention studies, and especially randomised controlled trials, has been in the health tool box for many years. In medicine, we usually examine one intervention and look at one outcome. About 20 years ago, economists, furthermore, began to use these powerful methods.

Now, this year’s Nobel prize in economics gives an outstanding recognition to Abhijit Banerjee, Indian born professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to Esther Duflo, a French born professor also at MIT, and to Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard University.

Their great achievements are that they introduced randomised controlled trials to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight poverty. They divided the question of reducing poverty into smaller and more manageable, questions – for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health. They show by doing so, questions are generally best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are, for the most part, affected.

In the research that we do, we frequently find that poverty is an underlying cause of a health problem, as can be seen by for example malnutrition. Now, the challenge is to identify smaller steps that could reduce poverty and subsequently malnutrition using their novel concept of breaking the problems into tinier and manageable proportions.

I hope that development agencies and governments, in collaboration with universities, will use such tools to improve their work.

Low immunization coverage in Wonago district, southern Ethiopia: A community-based cross-sectional study

Hailu S, Astatkie A, Johansson KA, Lindtjørn B (2019) Low immunization coverage in Wonago district, southern Ethiopia: A community-based cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE 14(7): e0220144.

Introduction  Immunization is a cost-effective intervention that prevented more than 5 million deaths worldwide from 2010 to 2015. Despite increased vaccination coverage over the past four decades in many African countries, including Ethiopia, universal coverage has not yet been reached. Only 39% of children aged 12–23 months received full vaccinations in Ethiopia, according to the 2016 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey. This study aimed to evaluate immunization coverage and identify individual and community factors that explain incomplete vaccination coverage among children aged 6–36 months in the Wonago district of southern Ethiopia.

Methods  We conducted a community-based, cross-sectional study in three randomly selected kebeles in the Wonago district from June to July 2017. Our nested sample of 1,116 children aged 6–36 months included 923 child-mother pairs (level 1) within kebeles (level 2). We conducted multilevel regression analysis using STATA software.

Results  Among participants, 85.0% of children aged 12–36 months received at least one vaccine, and 52.4% had complete immunization coverage. After controlling for several individual and community variables, we identified six significant predictor variables for complete immunization: Older mothers’ age (AOR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00–1.09), higher utilization of antenatal care (AOR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.14–1.62), one or more tetanus-toxoid vaccination during pregnancy (AOR = 2.64, 95% CI: 1.43–4.86), mothers knowing the age at which to complete child’s vaccinations (AOR = 2.00, 95% CI: 1.25–3.20), being a female (AOR = 0.64, 95% CI: 0.43–0.95), and child receiving vitamin A supplementation within the last 6 months (AOR = 2.79, 95% CI: 1.59–4.90). We observed a clustering effect at the individual and community levels with an intra-cluster correlation coefficient of 48.1%.

Conclusions  We found low immunization coverage among children in the Wonago district of southern Ethiopia, with significant differences across communities. Promoting maternal health care and community service could enhance immunization coverage.

Taye Gari’s PhD thesis: Malaria, anaemia and undernutrition in Ethiopia

Taye Gari. Malaria, anaemia and undernutrition in a drought-affected area of the Rift Valley of Ethiopia: Experiences from a trial to prevent malaria.  PhD. University of Bergen, 2018. Bergen

Summary of PhD thesis

Background: In Ethiopia, malaria, anaemia and undernutrition are common childhood health problems. The country is planning to reduce these conditions to a level where they are not a public health problem. Meanwhile, for the success of this aim, a description of the occurrence and interaction of malaria, anaemia and undernutrition could help contribute to design tailored, efficient and effective control strategies. This study was done in the context of malaria prevention trial, which aimed to measure the effect of combining long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS) in reducing the malaria incidence compared to LLINs or IRS alone. The study area was affected by a serious drought and famine during the first year of the study.

Objectives: The overall aim of this thesis is to improve our understanding of the effect of malaria prevention on anaemia, and to assess the association between malaria, anaemia and undernutrition among children in a drought-affected area in south-central, Ethiopia.

Methods: A cohort of 5309 residents was followed-up for 16 weeks to measure the variations in malaria incidence among villages (Paper I), and the results were used as a baseline to calculate the sample size needed for the trial. We followed a cohort of children aged 6 to 59 months for one year to describe anaemia and changes in haemoglobin (Hb) concentration (Paper II). A cohort of 4468 children was followed-up for 89 weeks to measure the relationship between malaria and undernutrition (Paper III). Weekly home visits and patient self-referral were also used to identify malaria cases. We conducted Hb concentration (once a year) and anthropometry (twice a year) surveys.

Results: In Paper I, we observed a variation in malaria incidence among villages. On the other hand, the insecticide-treated nets ownership was low (27%), with the distance from the lake or river and younger age being the main risk factors for malaria. The findings of this study were used as a baseline to calculate the sample size for the trial. In Paper II, despite the malaria prevention effort in the community, we observed an unexpected increase in anaemia prevalence over the period of a year, which could be due to the drought and famine that affected the area. A higher incidence of anaemia was observed among children with stunting, malaria infection, young age and in poor families. However, no significant difference in anaemia prevalence was observed among the different trial arms (LLIN+IRS, LLINs alone, IRS alone and routine arm). In Paper III, malaria infection was a risk factor for stunting and wasting, although undernutrition was not a risk for malaria infection. Furthermore, an increase in the prevalence of stunting, but no significant change in a prevalence of wasting was observed over time.

Conclusions: We showed a large variation in malaria incidence among villages. Conducting trials in a drought-prone area may bring an unexpected challenge. We observed an unexpected increase in anaemia prevalence over a year. There was no significant difference in anaemia prevalence among the trial arms. Moreover, a close follow-up of the nutritional status of children with malaria infection may be needed. There could hence be a need to prioritize villages nearer to the main mosquito breeding sites for malaria control.

Trial registration: PACTR 201411000882128 (8 September, 2014)

The Thesis can be downloaded here

Use of epidemiological and entomological tools in the control and elimination of malaria in Ethiopia

Animut A and Lindtjørn B. Use of epidemiological and entomological tools in the control and elimination of malaria in EthiopiaMalaria Journal 2018; 17:26.

Malaria is the leading public health problem in Ethiopia where over 75% of the land surface is at risk with varying intensities depending on altitude and season. Although the mortality because of malaria infection has declined much during the last 15–20 years, some researchers worry that this success story may not be sustainable. Past notable achievements in the reduction of malaria disease burden could be reversed in the future. To interrupt, or even to eliminate malaria transmission in Ethiopia, there is a need to implement a wide range of interventions that include insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, improved control of residual malaria transmission, and improved diagnostics, enhanced surveillance, and methods to deal with the emergence of resistance both to drugs and to insecticides. Developments during the past years with increasing awareness about the role of very low levels of malaria prevalence can sustain infections, may also demand that tools not used in the routine control efforts to reduce or eliminate malaria, should now be made available in places where malaria transmission occurs.

Malaria Conference in Hawassa

On December 13, 2017, the MalTrials project, a joint venture between Hawassa University, Addis Ababa University, and University of Bergen held International Research Seminar on Malaria. The conference was held at Haile Resort in Hawassa. The Maltrials project, Combining long-lasting insecticidal nets and indoor residual spraying for malaria prevention in Ethiopia: a cluster randomized controlled trial, started in 2013, and the main results were presented at the conference.

More information, and pictures from the conference can be viewed at the website of Hawassa University: International Research Seminar on Malaria Control held at Hawassa

Entomological evaluation of vector control


Kena, O. 2017. Entomological impact of combined and separate use of indoor residual spraying and long-lasting insecticidal nets for malaria prevention in Adami Tullu district, South-Central Ethiopia. PhD thesis. Addis Ababa University.

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) and long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are the key frontline malaria prevention interventions in Ethiopia. Both target Anopheles arabiensis, the sole primary malaria vector. Universal coverage of both interventions has been promoted and there is a growing demand in combination of interventions for malaria control and elimination. However, available evidence is contradictory wether the combined intervention is better than either IRS or LLINs alone. To investigate whether IRS and LLINs combination provides added protective impact on An. arabiensis compared to either IRS or LLINs alone, a cluster randomized controlled trial was carried out in Adami Tullu district, south-central Ethiopia. Villages were randomly allocated to four study arms: IRS+LLINs, IRS, LLINs, and control. All households in the IRS+LLINs and LLINs arms were provided with LLINs (PermaNet 2.0) free of charge. Households in the IRS+LLINs and IRS arms were applied with propoxur before the main malaria transmission season in 2014 and 2015. Adult mosquitoes were collected in randomly selected villages in each arm using CDC light trap catch (LTC) set close to a sleeping person, pyrethrum spray catch (PSC), and artificial pit shelter (PIT), for measuring host-seeking density (HSD), indoor resting density (IRD), and outdoor resting density (ORD) of the anophelines. Human landing catch (HLC) was performed in selected villages to monitor the impact of the interventions on local mosquito biting behaviours (biting location, time and host preference).

Collected anophelines were identified to species by use of standard morphological keys and additional use of molecular methods to separate sibling species of the An. gambiae complex. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect malaria infections in mosquitoes and the sources of mosquito blood meals. Mean densities were compared using incidence rate ratio (IRR) calculated by negative binomial regression. Parity rate (percentage of parous females) was also determined by ovarial dissection. Human blood index (HBI) was expressed as the proportion of mosquitoes with human blood divided by the total number of blood-fed mosquitoes tested.

A total of 1786 female anophelines of four species (An. arabiensis, An. pharoensis, An. ziemanni and An. funestus s.l.) were collected over two transmission seasons during the intervention period (2014-2015). Anopheles numbers were highest in the control arm (41.3% of total) followed by LLINs (25.4%), IRS (18.0%), and IRS+LLINs (15.8%). In most of the vector parameters estimated, the impact of IRS and LLINs combined and separate interventions were significantly higher in communities that recieved the interventions (in experimental groups) compared with untreated communities (control group). The mean HSD of An. arabiensis in the IRS+LLINs arm was similar to the IRS arm (0.03 vs. 0.03/ house/LTC/night) but lower than the LLINs arm (0.03 vs. 0.10/house/LTC/night, p=0.07) and so was the difference in IRD and ORD between the IRS+LLINs compared to the IRS arm. However, both IRD and ORD of An. arabiensis were higher in LLINs compared to IRS+LLINs (p < 0.001 for indoors). Parity rate of An. arabiensis were similar among the intervention arms. None of the 1786 samples of four species tested by ELISA was positive for P.  falciparum and P. vivax CSP infection in all of the study arms. Anopheles arabiensis preferred mainly bovine and human hosts for blood meal sources with high HBI in the LLIN alone. Indoor resting habit of An. arabiensis was less impacted by LLINs alone intervention compared to IRS + LLINs or IRS alone.

In conclusion, the IRS+LLINs and the IRS alone each was similarly most effective against An. arabiensis as compared to the LLINs alone. The IRS+LLINs provided added impact on An. arabiensis compared to LLINs alone. The LLINs alone had poor impact on densities and human biting rates of An. arabiensis in this study setting.

You can download the thesis here: Oljira-Kenea-thesis