Characterizing human movement patterns using GPS data loggers in an area of persistent malaria in Zimbabwe along the Mozambique border

Marisa Hast, Sungano Mharakurwa, Timothy M. Shields, Jailos Lubinda, Kelly Searle, Lovemore Gwanzura, Shungu Munyati, William J. Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Human mobility is a driver for the reemergence or resurgence of malaria and has been identified as a source of cross-border transmission. However, movement patterns are difficult to measure in rural areas where malaria risk is high. In countries with malaria elimination goals, it is essential to determine the role of mobility on malaria transmission to implement appropriate interventions. Methods: A study was conducted in Mutasa District, Zimbabwe, to investigate human movement patterns in an area of persistent transmission along the Mozambique border. Over 1 year, a convenience sample of 20 participants/month was recruited from active malaria surveillance cohorts to carry an IgotU® GT-600 global positioning system (GPS) data logger during all daily activities. Consenting participants were tested for malaria at data logger distribution using rapid antigen diagnostic tests and completed a survey questionnaire. GPS data were analyzed using a trajectory analysis tool, and participant movement patterns were characterized throughout the study area and across the border into Mozambique using movement intensity maps, activity space plots, and statistical analyses. Results: From June 2016–May 2017, 184 participants provided movement tracks encompassing > 350,000 data points and nearly 8000 person-days. Malaria prevalence at logger distribution was 3.7%. Participants traveled a median of 2.8 km/day and spent a median of 4.6 h/day away from home. Movement was widespread within and outside the study area, with participants traveling up to 500 km from their homes. Indices of mobility were higher in the dry season than the rainy season (median km traveled/day = 3.5 vs. 2.2, P = 0.03), among male compared to female participants (median km traveled/day = 3.8 vs. 2.0, P = 0.0008), and among adults compared to adolescents (median total km traveled = 104.6 vs. 59.5, P = 0.05). Half of participants traveled outside the study area, and 30% traveled into Mozambique, including 15 who stayed in Mozambique overnight. Conclusions: Study participants in Mutasa District, Zimbabwe, were highly mobile throughout the year. Many participants traveled long distances from home, including overnight trips into Mozambique, with clear implications for malaria control. Interventions targeted at mobile populations and cross-border transmission may be effective in preventing malaria introductions in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number942
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge Edmore Mamini and the field team at the Biomedical Research and Training Institute for their leadership and work over a year of data collection to provide the data for this project. We thank the communities of Mutasa District, Zimbabwe for their participation, Andre Hackman for support with data management, and Mufaro Kanyangarara for expertise and research collaboration.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health awarded to the Southern and Central Africa International Centers of Excellence in Malaria Research (U19AI089680), the Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Cross-border movement
  • GPS
  • Malaria
  • Population movement
  • Zimbabwe


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