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Splenic enlargement and abdominal scarifications in childhood malaria: beliefs, practices and their possible roles in management as seen in Benin City, Nigeria

O M Ibadin, A N Ofili, L U Airauhi, E I Ozolua, A B Umoru
Nigerian Postgraduate Medical Journal 2008, 15 (2): 70-5

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To achieve sustainable reduction in malaria burden in Africa, cultural practices that foster increased malaria burden must be addressed. In Edo state Nigeria, scarification/tattooing on the left hypochondrium presumably over an enlarged spleen arising mainly from malaria is widely practiced. This practice is deleterious, diversionary and causes complications. To evaluate the beliefs and practice, regarding abdominal wall scarification in children and within the context of malaria control. This was carried out among experienced women in child care selected from Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria.

METHODS: Information relating to beliefs, knowledge and their practices including possible socio-cultural/economic determinants were obtained with use of questionnaires in a cross-sectional and descriptive study.

RESULTS: Of the 400 questionnaires administered 394 were responded to. The modal age bracket was 26-30 years. (Range, 18 - 56 years) Respondents were mainly Binis, Esan, and Ibos amongst others. About 27.0% of respondents considered the spleen a "bag of worms". Other views included "collection of bad blood", 27.2% and as a sickness of its own, 14.7%. Named causes of splenomegaly were fever, 59.6% and evil spirit, 15.5%. Over 45.0% of respondents would consult the herbalists for splenomegaly. Less educated (chi(2) = 40.0, p< 0.005), women over 40 years of age (chi(2) = 13.5, p < 0.05) and Esan/Bini ethnic groups (chi(2) = 15.6, p < 0.05) are more prone to the practice. Reasons for widespread use included perceived effectiveness, low cost and accessibility. Information on scarification was obtained mainly from family members, 49.5%; neighbours, 25.1%; and friends/colleagues, 16.7%.

CONCLUSION: Practice of scarification is deep rooted and widespread in the study location. It has potentials to negate efforts involved in malaria control. Education including public enlightenment campaign should effectively check the practice.


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