In GonjiKolela woreda the number of malaria cases and deaths was among the peak as reports from health institutions indicated. It was common to see students missing class and household members on bed for many working days due to malaria that in turn exacerbated the poor livelihood situations. The problem was so severe to pregnant women and under five children. Yet, there are schools and faith based organizations and other local structures that could have been best exploited to prevent the spread and mitigate the harm full effect of malaria 

INITIATIVE A social behavioral change communication project in QolelaQusquamkebele, GonjiKolelaworeda in Ethiopia’s Amhara region is, therefore, underway to prevent and control malaria enabling 5th-8th grade students and religious leaders to be agents of behavioral change in the community to for project sustainability, kebele taskforces have been established with the role of reviewing project progress, ensuring ownership and engaging in raising community awareness in partnership with religious leaders and schools.

The Qolela Qusquam kebele taskforce in consultation with the kebele council has enacted a local norm (or rule) on the misuse of insecticide-treated bed nets stating that misuse of bed nets will result in a day in prison or a fine of 50 Ethiopian birr. The kebele leadership shared the established norm with the community at churches and various kebele events.

RESULTSAs a result of the written norm, the kebele’s health extension worker witnessed that before this project, “The community was misusing ITNs and therefore malaria cases were very common.” She added, “Now the community’s awareness of malaria has increased, and bed net use has improved one hundred fold because of the project’s intensive activities done and the council’s decision to enact the norm. 

Miss YenesewTakeleFente, a 35 year old member of the community said, “Before the rule was in place, my family did not care to use the nets correctly. We used the nets as rope to tie our grasses together rather than hanging it for sleeping. I used to sleep without a bed net, but after we were told by the kebele leaders and by our community’s students, we see the importance and regularly use the nets while sleeping.”