This study examines the effectiveness of communication strategies deployed by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) in fighting malaria in Nigeria. Over the years, these strategies have been more diffusion-based than participatory. Available documents indicate that the rate of success in the fight against malaria as championed by the agency has not been encouraging; leading to investigation of the reasons behind this lackluster performance. Communication was singled out as a major determinant of success for this project and this was investigated in Sokoto and Kano States, where qualitative processes were applied to assess the scope, depth and impact of the strategies employed through data analysis conducted on the documents of the agency and others relevant, in-depth interviews with four officials at state and local government offices of the NMCP and field interviews with 40 beneficiaries of the intervention in the two states. The findings of the study revealed that communication strategies play a key role in planning development interventions, but that these communication strategies need to be very effective to succeed. At the NMCP, it became clear that primarily, the diffusion-based communication strategies employed by the NMCP have not been very successful. This is because they do not engage the beneficiaries of the programme, despite the desire of the beneficiaries to have such engagement. Other secondary findings include the revelation of an apparent lack of capacity in the area of communication by officials and a template of activities that is skewed more towards some aspects of the programme than others. As part of the recommendations of this study, the need for the inclusion of participatory approaches among the regime of strategies employed by the NMCP was canvassed in order to establish the needed dialogue with beneficiaries and add value to the overall performance of the Agency in fighting malaria in Nigeria.
1.1 Background to the study: Communicating Development
After the second world war, developed countries came to the realization that the backwardness of the third world is a drag on their own development and they decided to initiate interventions in these countries with a view to bringing development to them. Interventions targeted the economic growth of these countries with the success of the developed countries as the model aspiration. Development was thought to be triggered by and was pursued through the diffusion of modern technologies, planned in the national capitals under the guidance and direction of experts. “Often, the people in the villages who are the ‘objects’ of these plans would first learn that ‘development’ was on the way when strangers from the city turned-up, frequently unannounced, to survey land or look at project sites” (Yoon, 1996: 37).
Building on the American scholar Daniel Lerner‟s influential 1958 study of communication and development in the Middle East and Wilbur Schramm‟s 1964 study on the role of media for national development, communication researchers assumed that the introduction of media and certain types of educational, political, and economic information into a social system could transform individuals and societies from traditional to modern.
The term „development communication‟ was first used in the Philippines in the 1970s by
Professor Nora Quebral to “designate the processes for transmitting and communicating new knowledge related to rural environments” (Bessette, 2004: 14). It eventually came to cover all those seeking to help improve the living conditions of the disadvantaged people.