BACKGROUND: Malaria transmission in The Gambia decreased substantially over the last 20 years thanks to the scale-up of control interventions. However, malaria prevalence is still relatively high in eastern Gambia and represents both a health and a financial burden for households. This study aims to quantify the out-of-pocket costs and productivity losses of seeking malaria treatment at household level.
METHODS: A household survey was carried out through in-person interviews. Respondents were asked about malaria prevention methods, their treatment-seeking behaviour, and any costs incurred for transport, services, food, and/or overnight stays. A bottom-up costing approach was used to calculate the unit cost of treatment and a tobit regression approach to investigate cost drivers.
RESULTS: The survey included 864 respondents, mainly subsistence farmers. Most respondents (87%) considered malaria to be a problem affecting their ability to perform their regular duties. Respondents preferred going to a health facility for treatment. The primary reason for not going was related to costs; 70% of respondents incurred costs for seeking health care, with a median of £3.62 (IQR: £1.73 to £6.10). The primary driver of cost was living in one of the villages that are off the main road and/or far from health facilities. 66% reported productivity loss of 5 working days on average during a malaria episode of them or their child.
CONCLUSIONS: Although malaria prevalence is decreasing and treatment is provided free of charge, households seeking treatment are confronted with out-of-pocket expenditures and lost working days; particularly in remote villages.