By Fara Ndiaye
Regional Manager for West Africa, Speak Up Africa*
More than 3 billion people are at risk of malaria and over 600,000 deaths are still caused by this disease. Yet, malaria is preventable and treatable. For the past 15 years, tremendous progress has been achieved in the fight against malaria in Africa. Hundreds of millions of insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as diagnosis and treatment interventions were distributed throughout the continent. This massive scaling up of proven malaria control strategies has greatly impacted the number of deaths in endemic countries.
In Senegal, the Ministry of Health partnered with MACEPA to provide health care workers in the most remote areas of the country with basic cell phones. These mobile phones allow health workers to gather malaria data and deliver it in a timely fashion to the appropriate health authorities.
After a short training session, health workers are equipped to use a rapid-reporting application designed to better convey information and ultimately help officials and doctors deter a huge malaria outbreak as it begins spreading through an area.
Every week, trained health workers enter and submit essential data such as the number of confirmed malaria cases and available stock of life-saving control tools like ACTs and rapid-diagnostic tests. The data can be accessed by health officials at the national level as soon as they are submitted.
This project is designed to help malaria-endemic countries respond to malaria outbreaks in real time. It is essential for countries moving toward pre-elimination and elimination of the disease to keep steady and up-to-date data. Transmitting new data every week via cell phones minimizes the total time reporting usually takes and therefore impacts community health workers’ compliance with their reporting requirements.
Mobile phones are yet another innovative tool that can be used to save lives in malaria-endemic countries in Africa.
*Speak Up Africa is a Dakar-based health communications and advocacy organization whose goal is to engage all sectors of African society in the fight to eliminate malaria.