Perceptions about malaria among Brazilian gold miners in an Amazonian border area: perspectives for malaria elimination strategies

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Abstract

Background: Mining in the Amazon exposes gold miners to various diseases, including malaria, whose control is still a major challenge. The environment of the mines contributes to the proliferation of vector mosquitoes and the precarious housing conditions facilitate transmission of the disease. Understanding gold miners’ perceptions is essential for the formulation of strategies to fight malaria. A qualitative study was carried out in the municipality of Calçoene, state of Amapá, Brazilian Amazon adjointining the municipality of Oiapoque, that is in the border area with French Guiana and Suriname. Methods: A semi-structured interview was applied to an intentional sample of 29 miners, a number determined by the theoretical saturation criterion. Thematic analysis was adopted to obtain the results and the Cohen's Kappa index was calculated to verify the agreement between observers during coding. Results: The agreement between observers was verified by a Cohen's Kappa index of 0.82. Analysis of the interviews showed that gold miners were subjected to prejudice from the community due to forest diseases that they can transmit, and their activities are often associated with crime. When the miners return to their hometown after a period of mining, the urban population blames them for the onset of diseases such as malaria. Most participants in the survey did not know how malaria transmission occurs, and associated its occurrence with contaminated water and food. Participants reported not being afraid of the disease, trusting the diagnosis and available treatment, though this depends on where they are treated. The use of therapeutic resources, such as medicinal plants and medicines acquired in the illegal market, is very common in this population. Despite the challenges identified by the research subjects, they believe that the disease can be controlled, or the cases reduced, but there was low acceptability for a possible mass drug administration (MDA) intervention. Conclusion: Despite a recent reduction in malaria prevalence in Brazil, there are still vulnerable populations, such as gold miners, who help to perpetuate the existence of the disease in the Amazon. The lack of knowledge regarding how the transmission of malaria occurs, associated with myths regarding this and the use of traditional health practices and illegal drugs for the treatment of the disease without a specific diagnosis, jeopardizes the country’s efforts to eliminate malaria. It is necessary to implement control programmes in these populations, especially those who frequently travel around the border region and to remote locations, which are difficult regions for health teams to access, thus hindering diagnostic and treatment actions. For this reason, understanding the perceptions of these individuals as well as their customs, beliefs and lifestyle, can assist in the production of targeted educational material and adoption of strategies in the elimination of malaria in the country.

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Murta, F. L. G., Marques, L. L. G., Santos, A. P. C., Batista, T. S. B., Mendes, M. O., Silva, E. D., … Lacerda, M. V. G. (2021). Perceptions about malaria among Brazilian gold miners in an Amazonian border area: perspectives for malaria elimination strategies. Malaria Journal, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03820-0

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