Household burden of malaria in South Africa and Mozambique: is there a catastrophic impact?

Marianela Castillo-Riquelme, Diane McIntyre, Karen Barnes
Tropical Medicine & International Health 2008, 13 (1): 108-22

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate treatment-seeking behaviour, financial impact and time lost due to malaria events, in southern Mozambique and eastern South Africa.

METHODS: In-depth household surveys (828 in Mozambique and 827 in South Africa) were analysed. An asset index was calculated using principal component analysis to allow comparison across socio-economic groups. Direct costs of seeking care and the time lost due to malaria were determined. The extent of catastrophic payments was assessed using as thresholds the traditional 10% of household income and 40% of non-food income, as recently recommended by WHO.

RESULTS: Poverty was highly prevalent: 70% of the South African and 95% of Mozambican households studied lived on less than $1 per capita per day. Around 97% of those with recent malaria sought healthcare, mainly in public facilities. Out-of-pocket household expenditure per malaria episode averaged $2.30 in South Africa and $6.50 in Mozambique. Analysis at the individual household level found that 32-34% of households in Mozambique, compared with 9-13% of households in South Africa, incurred catastrophic payments for malaria episodes. Results based on mean values underestimated the prevalence of catastrophic payments. Days off work/school were higher in Mozambique.

CONCLUSIONS: The high rate of health seeking in public health facilities seems unusual in the African context, which bodes well for high coverage with artemisinin-based combinations, even if only deployed within the public sector. However, despite no or modest charges for public sector primary healthcare, households frequently incur catastrophic expenditure on a single malaria episode.

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