Precarity at the Margins of Malaria Control in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh: A Mixed-Methods Study
Matin MA., Sarkar NDP., Phru CS., Ley B., Thriemer K., Price RN., Peeters Grietens K., Ali Khan W., Alam MS., Gryseels C.
<jats:p>Bangladesh has achieved significant progress towards malaria elimination, although health service delivery for malaria remains challenging in remote forested areas such as the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The aim of this study was to investigate perceptions of malaria and its treatment among the local population to inform contextualized strategies for rolling out radical cure for P. vivax in Bangladesh. The study comprised two sequential strands whereby the preliminary results of a qualitative strand informed the development of a structured survey questionnaire used in the quantitative strand. Results show that ethnic minority populations in the CHT live in precarious socio-economic conditions which increase their exposure to infectious diseases, and that febrile patients often self-treat, including home remedies and pharmaceuticals, before attending a healthcare facility. Perceived low quality of care and lack of communication between Bengali health providers and ethnic minority patients also affects access to public healthcare. Malaria is viewed as a condition that affects vulnerable people weakened by agricultural work and taking away blood is perceived to increase such vulnerability. Healthcare providers that initiate and sustain a dialogue about these issues with ethnic minority patients may foster the trust that is needed for local malaria elimination efforts.</jats:p>