Your MACEPA Malaria Minute: health workers test their skills in Luapula

By Sarah Pickersgill
Advocacy and Communications Officer, MACEPA, and Global Health Corps Fellow

Newly trained community health workers test their skills

More community health workers (CHWs) are being trained every day! This sharp looking group of health heroes is joining the effort against malaria in Luapula, one of the provinces in Zambia with the heaviest malaria burden.

Photos: PATH/Chris Lungu

Pictured above: An index case was found close to the Kabila Rural Health Center. CHWs are processing the result and will follow up in the neighboring areas, looking for additional cases. 

Pictured below: Community members show their appreciation for CHWs in Kariba, Zambia. Oris Siminyola says, “We love the community malaria case management service. They are always there and even willing to work at night. They save our lives.”

Photo: PATH/Elizabeth Chiyende

So long from your 2017–2018 Global Health Corps Fellows

Our time is up. It’s been an incredible year learning and working here at PATH, but it’s time for the new fellows to bring their fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the team! We are extremely grateful for all those at PATH-MACEPA who have supported and mentored us over the last year. Below is a little reflection of the fellowship year from us. Best wishes to the PATH team and the new fellows in the year to come!

-Sarah Pickersgill and Innocent Tembo

What has been your favourite part of the fellowship?

INNOCENT: My favorite part of the fellowship would be when I got engaged in malaria surveillance and rapid reporting. Not only was I involved in tracking and improving data quality but I had the opportunity to see and appreciate how data are used for planning and decision-making at all levels.

SARAH: My favorite thing about the fellowship was learning from so many passionate and brilliant people. Some might think I’m a bit quiet, but I really just enjoy observing, listening, and learning from people. Everyone has such a fascinating perspective and expertise and that’s helped me learn and grow a great deal this year.

What is something you learned this year?

INNOCENT: This fellowship has taught me that humility, dedication, and a willingness to learn can get you far in life. I have learnt so much about malaria control in the last year by having an open mind and a willingness to be corrected where necessary. Humility is a quality that has helped me to relate and build strong relationships with people especially those on the ground.

SARAH: Something that I took away from this year is the importance of all the seemingly small, day-to-day work that goes into eliminating malaria. Malaria is a challenging disease to defeat and there is so much that goes into the fight. From collecting mosquitoes to fixing bicycles to data entry, the details are so important. Some of these things might not seem as eye-catching or headline-worthy as drone delivery or genetically altered mosquitoes, but they are absolutely critical to achieving our zambitious goals of ending malaria.

What did you like about working at PATH?

INNOCENT: PATH has so many resources (both human and material) available to help you get better at what you do. For a fellow like myself who was coming into malaria-related work for the first time, I really benefited from the wide expertise across the MACEPA teams. Everyone is well versed and dedicated at what they do and that is so motivating to see. The leadership team really understands what the fellowship is about and helped me to shape realistic goals that developed my skillset.

SARAH: I think PATH is one of the best organization’s I’ve worked for. I think people at PATH really have an analytical eye and don’t shy away from questioning “why is something working or not working?” I think this culture has enabled me to learn more, question more, and ultimately I think it means our work will be better for it.

What’s next for you?

INNOCENT: I’m definitely looking forward to continue working in public health. I also want to advance my studies. I recently got a master’s scholarship to study project management so that’s something I’m excited about.

SARAH: I will be starting my Masters of Public Health in September at the University of Washington—so I’m really looking forward to heading back to school. I’ve learned a lot from working at PATH and I’m looking forward to applying that knowledge in my studies and research going forward. 

*Stay tuned to the next Malaria Minute to meet this year’s new fellows, Chelsea and Chuma. We’re very excited for them to join the MACEPA team. Be sure to give them a warm PATH welcome!

In the news

In partnership with the Tanzanian government, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs has implemented a new strategy for bednet distribution. Instead of mass campaigns, the new strategy focuses on school-based distribution every two years. In the areas where this strategy has been implemented—staggered between the nets given to pregnant women and infants at health clinics—school-based distribution nets reach approximately 85 percent of the population. (The Hub)

Last month, Paraguay became the first country in the Americas since 1973 to be certified malaria-free. Meanwhile, many neighboring countries in the region are seeing an increase in prevalence of the disease. Nine countries in the Americas reported at least a 20 percent increase in malaria cases during that period—more than in any other region. (The New York Times)

Success in Paraguay demonstrates what is possible with a dedicated national elimination effort, strong commitment and leadership at all levels. In the Americas, Argentina is expected to be certified malaria-free later this year. Several more Latin American countries—Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Suriname, and El Salvador—could be malaria-free by 2020 or soon after. (The Hill)

GatesNotes shares three statistics (on child deaths, fertility rate, and extreme poverty) you should know to truly understand the world.

Australian scientists bred almost 20 million mosquitoes, infecting males with bacteria that made them sterile and released over 3 million of them in parts of Australia last summer. Results from this experiment have shown to have wiped out more than 80 percent of disease-carry mosquitoes in the trial locations. The experiment targeted the aedes aegypti mosquito, an invasive species native to Africa which is a carrier of diseases like dengue and zika. Scientists argue that wiping them out in Australia wouldn’t do much ecological damage in the country. (CNN)

UNICEF has established Africa’s first humanitarian drone testing corridor in Kasungu, Malawi. Thus far, projects have been launched in the corridor to deliver emergency supplies to inaccessible rural areas, to map cholera outbreaks, and to train the next generation of Malawians to build and pilot drones. Now they’re adding the fight against malaria to the list. One of the first malaria-related projects is to map the breeding sites of mosquitoes. (The Conversation)

Inspired by Senegal’s nationwide campaign of the same name launched in 2014, RBM is kicking off a Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign across the African continent to encourage all citizens, families, and communities to make a personal commitment to ending malaria for good. (AllAfrica)

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that medicines already used for pets to protect against fleas and ticks could offer similar protection for humans. Researchers at the nonprofit drug discovery institute Calibr and TropIQ Health Sciences report that drugs called isoxazolines might also work in humans to kill off pests (such as mosquitoes) that spread diseases (such as Zika and malaria). If it proves safe and effective in humans, the researchers suggest that when a disease-spreading bug bites a person taking the medication, that insect would die before they could bite another person. (TIME)

Earlier this month, the first Malaria World Congress was hosted in Melbourne, Australia, to bring together specialists and key stakeholders fighting malaria. Check out this interview with the congress convener, Professor Brendan Crabb of the Burnet Institute. (ABC)

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