Posted by Ahna Machan, Rotary Member
Our group of Zambian and U.S. Rotarians met with Dr. Mulakwa Kamuliwo (the acting coordinator of Zambia’s National Malaria Control Centre (NMCC)—and his team at NMCC. There, we learned more about Zambia’s approach to malaria control: one country-wide strategy, one coordinating body, and one monitoring and evaluation system. This sounds so simple and so logical, but simple does not always mean easy—I knew that it was what made Zambia stand out among so many malaria-endemic countries and was likely the key to Zambia’s successes. I also was reminded of the recent travails in the US in trying to pass health legislation reform that would make it easier for everyone to have access to health care.
But at the NMCC, there seemed to be a real sense of teamwork as each person described their role, successes, and challenges. Their collaboration and commitment stretched beyond a conference room in the capital of Lusaka into rural, malaria-endemic communities – those very vulnerable, high risk regions. Several of the Zambian Rotarians asked questions about specific problems and possible interventions, such as using insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) versus spraying and citing stagnant water pools they had noticed in their regions.
The NMCC told us how they work in accordance with WHO guidelines and trained 600 community health workers (CHWs) who actively visit each home in these malaria-endemic villages. Zambian Rotarians nodded as they had firsthand knowledge of working with these invaluable CHWs, particularly in the Copperbelt region. Several days earlier around World Malaria Day, the Zambian and Seattle (US) Rotarians had worked side by side with the CHWs, delivering ITNs and educating families about malaria. The community health workers explain how malaria is transmitted (by the anopheles mosquito), conduct rapid diagnostic tests to detect the presence of malaria (especially for pregnant women and children under five), prescribe appropriate treatment, and ensure that each home has at least one insecticide-treated bednet and knows how to use it to prevent malaria. The NMCC hopes to train more health workers when they are able to attain more funding—and it was great to hear one of our Zambian Rotarians ask if they could be trained to become a CHW or if they could support more training for them! Dr. Kamuliwo welcomed this offer and encouraged them to keep in touch to develop a working relationship with the NMCC to become part of the team and help to carry out Zambia’s quest to roll back malaria by 2014.
Zambia’s approach, including involving the participation of civil society, is becoming a model for other African countries. So far, they have made great strides: 62% of the households have at least one bednet. Yet, there is much more to be accomplished and Rotarians are joining forces across continents to help build public education, knowledge, and awareness of malaria in communities throughout Zambia.