Local Aetiology and Pathways to Care in Malaria among the Ibibio of South-coastal Nigeria

A. S. Ajala, N. A. Wilson


There is a parallel between local and bio-medical perceptions of malaria among the Ibibio people of South-coastal Nigeria, as in many other societies of sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is endemic. Despite the fact that this accounts for resilience of the disease, earlier studies on malaria in Africa focused on causes, prevalence and socio-environmental factors. Local meanings of malaria and their influence on therapeutic choices have been largely ignored. This study examines local perceptions of malaria among the Ibibio and explains how attitudes are generated from indigenous meanings. It also examines how such attitudes inform a local aetiology of malaria. Similarly, our study examines how local meanings of, and attitudes towards malaria, set the pathway of care in malaria management among the Ibibio. Through qualitative and descriptive ethnography, Key Informant Interview (KII), Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and the textual analysis of documents, our study seeks to establish that malaria is caused by parasites–protozoa. 83% of the respondents held that malaria is due to witchcraft, exposure to sunlight and eating of yellowish food items such as yellow maize, paw-paw, orange and red oil. These local perceptions are drawn from local conceptions which in turn encourage malaria patients to seek assistance outside modern health care facilities. This also discourages local communities from attending health education workshops that link malaria with germ theory and care. Treatment of malaria is thus mostly home-based where a wide variety of traditional remedies is practiced. Our study concludes that the lack of convergence between local knowledge-contents and bio-medical explanations account for a high prevalence rate and the lack of effective management. For proper management of malaria, there is a need to understand local knowledge and indigenous concepts in order to establish a convergence between bio-medical explanations and indigenous perceptions. Only then can a community acceptable means of changing bio-medical perceptions of the disease be facilitated.


Malaria; Local Aetiology; Nigeria

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/hcs.2013.102


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