Operational challenges to continuous LLIN distribution: a qualitative rapid assessment in four countries.
Theiss-Nyland K., Ejersa W., Karema C., Koné D., Koenker H., Cyaka Y., Lynch M., Webster J., Lines J.
BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization recommends that long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) for malaria prevention should be distributed continuously through antenatal care (ANC) and the expanded programme on immunization (EPI) in addition to mass campaigns. Despite these recommendations, the continuous distribution (CD) of LLIN distribution through ANC and EPI is not policy in many countries, and where there is a policy, implementation is incomplete. This study aims to identify the operational strengths and weaknesses of LLINs CD in four country programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. METHODS: A qualitative rapid assessment process was conducted using semi-structured individual and group interviews at the national, sub-national, and facility level in four countries. Seventy participants were included (23 in Kenya, 13 in Malawi, 18 in Mali and 16 in Rwanda), drawn from malaria programmes, ANC and EPI programmes, government logistics units, and partner organizations. Interviews were structured to identify themes within a health systems approach. Policy and guideline documents and data collection tools were reviewed as a means of triangulation. Data analysis focused on pre-determined and emergent themes. RESULTS: The four countries used a wide variety of management systems for the supply of LLINs to routine services. Issues related to quantification, supply logistics and data collection all contributed to stock-outs at facility level. None of the four countries had guidelines for responding to stock-outs or system enabling local staff to request additional supplies of LLINs. In all four countries, data collection of LLIN distribution was incomplete or absent at facility level, and such data were not used for planning. Training of staff at the facility level was implemented less frequently than national and sub-national staff would have preferred. Logistics systems, independent of other commodities, and in-country partner support strengthened the continuous distribution of LLINs. CONCLUSIONS: In these countries, stock-outs were the most important single obstacle to the smooth operations of continuous LLIN distribution. Stock-outs can be avoided if facilities have the capacity to place orders for LLIN resupply as needed. Revised data collection and management systems for LLIN distribution have the potential to increase coverage of the target populations by improving LLIN stock-out response, and strengthening monitoring and evaluation of distribution.