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There is renewed vigour in efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases including sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis or HAT), including attempts to develop more cost-effective methods of tsetse control. In the West Nile region of Uganda, newly designed insecticide-treated targets are being deployed over an area of ∼500 km2. The operational area covers villages where tsetse control has not been conducted previously. The effectiveness of the targets will depend, in part, on their acceptance by the local community.
We assessed knowledge, perceptions and acceptance of tsetse baits (traps, targets) in villages where they had or had not been used previously. We conducted sixteen focus group discussions with male and female participants in eight villages across Arua District. Discussions were audio recorded, translated and transcribed. We used thematic analysis to compare the views of both groups and identify salient themes.
Despite the villages being less than 10 km apart, community members perceived deployed baits very differently. Villagers who had never seen traps before expressed fear, anxiety and panic when they first encountered them. This was related to associations with witchcraft and “ghosts from the river” which are traditionally linked with physical or mental illness, death and misfortune. By contrast, villagers living in areas where traps had been used previously had positive attitudes towards them and were fully aware of their purpose and benefits. The latter group reported that they had similar negative perceptions when tsetse control interventions first started a decade ago. Our results suggest that despite their proximity, acceptance of traps varies markedly between villages and this is related to the duration of experience with tsetse control programs. The success of community-based interventions against tsetse will therefore depend on early engagements with communities and carefully designed sensitization campaigns that reach all communities, especially those living in areas new to such interventions.
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