Monitoring community-directed treatment programmes for sustainability: lessons from the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC).
Community-directed treatment is a relatively new strategy that was adopted in 1997 by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), for large-scale distribution of ivermectin (Mectizan). Participatory monitoring of 39 of the control projects based on community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) was undertaken from 1998-2000, with a focus on process implementation of the strategy and the predictors of sustainability. Data from 14,925 household interviews in 2314 villages, 183 complete treatment records, 382 focus-group discussions, and the results of interviews with 669 community leaders, 757 trained community-directed drug distributors (CDD) and 146 health personnel (in 26 projects in four countries) were analysed. The data show that CDD dispensed ivermectin to 65.4% of the total population (71.2% of the eligible population), with no significant gender differences in coverage (P > 0.05). Treatment coverage ranged from 60.2% of the eligible subjects in Cameroon to 76.9% in Uganda. There was no significant relationship between the provision of incentives to CDD and treatment coverage (P > 0.05). The frequency of treatment refusal was highest in Cameroon (29.2%). Although most (72.1%) of the communities investigated selected their CDD on the basis of a community decision at a village meeting, only 37.9% chose their distribution period in the same way. There is clearly a need to improve communication strategies, to address the issues of absentees and refusals, to emphasise community ownership and to de-emphasise incentives for CDD. The investigation of the 'predictor indicators' of sustainability should enable APOC to understand the determinants of project performance and to initiate any appropriate changes in the programme.