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Background: As insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) wear out and are disposed, some household members are prioritized to use remaining ITNs. This study assessed how nets are allocated within households to individuals of different age categories as ITNs are lost or damaged and as new ITNs are obtained. The study also explored how ITN allocation affects ITN durability. Methods: A cross-sectional household survey and ITN durability study was conducted among 2,875 households across Tanzania to determine the proportion of nets that remain protective (serviceable) 22 months after net distribution aiming for universal coverage. Allocation of study nets within houses, and re-allocation of ITNs when new universal replacement campaign (URC) nets arrived in study households in Musoma District, was also assessed. Results: Some 57.0% (95% CI 53.9–60.1%) of households had sufficient ITNs for every household member, while 84.4% (95% CI 82.4–86.4%) of the population had access to an ITN within their household (assuming 1 net covers every 2 members). In households with sufficient nets, 77.5% of members slept under ITNs. In households without sufficient nets, pregnant women (54.6%), children < 5 years (45.8%) and adults (42.1%) were prioritized, with fewer school-age children 5–14 years (35.9%), youths 15–24 years (28.1%) and seniors > 65 years (32.6%) sleeping under ITNs. Crowding (≥ 3 people sleeping under nets) was twice as common among people residing in houses without sufficient nets for all age groups, apart from children < 5. Nets were less likely to be serviceable if: ≥ 3 people slept under them (OR 0.50 (95% CI 0.40–0.63)), or if nets were used by school-age children (OR 0.72 (95% CI 0.56–0.93)), or if the net product was Olyset®. One month after the URC, only 23.6% (95% CI 16.7–30.6%) of the population had access to a URC ITN in Musoma district. Householders in Musoma district continued the use of old ITNs even with the arrival of new URC nets. Conclusion: Users determined the useful life of ITNs and prioritized pregnant women and children < 5 to serviceable ITNs. When household net access declines, users adjust by crowding under remaining nets, which further reduces ITN lifespan. School-age children that commonly harbour gametocytes that mediate malaria transmission are compelled to sleep under unserviceable nets, crowd under nets or remain uncovered. However, they were accommodated by the arrival of new nets. More frequent ITN delivery through the school net programme in combination with mass distribution campaigns is essential to maximize ITN effectiveness.
Mboma, Z. M., Festo, C., Lorenz, L. M., Massue, D. J., Kisinza, W. N., Bradley, J., … Moore, S. J. (2021). The consequences of declining population access to insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) on net use patterns and physical degradation of nets after 22 months of ownership. Malaria Journal, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03686-2