MWJ2015, 6, 7
Febrile illnesses are common causes of morbidity and mortality among under-five children in sub-Saharan Africa. The recommended strategy for effective case management of uncomplicated malaria is parasitological confirmation prior to use of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). There is a lack of qualitative information explaining factors, which influence malaria case management practices among health workers. This study explores the perceptions of health managers and health care providers on the case management of uncomplicated malaria among under-fives in selected primary health care (PHC) facilities of two Local Government Areas (LGAs), Katcha and Gbako, as part of baselines for capacity-building interventions planned in Niger State, Nigeria. Interviewees included state- and LGA-level health programme managers, and frontline health workers purposively selected to cover a range of cadres involved in case management of sick children. Issues explored were history taking, diagnosis, appropriate diagnosis of malaria, prescription for malaria, referrals and adherence to referral. Data coding was carried out with Nvivo qualitative software (version 8) and content analysed. History taking was often not carried out appropriately by the health workers. Treatment of malaria was not based on parasite-based diagnosis. Most of the health workers reported that they prescribed ACTs for treating presumed uncomplicated malaria. Care givers’ preferences, poor transportation systems and lack of financial resources led to poor adherence to referral advice. Absence of health workers from their duty post hindered effective service delivery. Prescription of ACTs as a first line of treatment for uncomplicated malaria without a parasite-based diagnosis was the standard case management practice. Parasite-based diagnosis for malaria will invariably lead to better treatment for non-malaria fever cases among the studied age group. Continuous capacity building aimed at improving adherence to current recommendations on parasite- based diagnosis and good clinical practice would be required to support the paradigm shift to parasite-based diagnosis of malaria.