Despite being preventable and treatable, malaria, an infectious disease is currently threatening the lives of 3.2 billion people around the world.
Malaria Consortium, a civic group which is up with some measures to combat the scourge says every year the disease accounts for hundreds of thousands of deaths, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘’Pregnant women and children under five years of age are especially vulnerable to this devastating disease’’, the group said in its latest newsletter, pointing out that since 2003, it has been fighting malaria in countries across Africa and Asia, in partnership with communities, government and non-government organisations.
According to the group, ‘’we work closely with country governments and national malaria control programmes, providing technical and operational support to strengthen health systems. This includes supporting the distribution and improved use of long-lasting insecticidal nets and other malaria commodities, reducing the spread of malaria drug resistance, improving case management of malaria at community and health facility levels, strengthening and improving capacity for surveillance and monitoring of the disease, and carrying out research to ensure that good evidence supports effective delivery of services.
‘’We work with governments in various stages of malaria control to increase their capacity and accomplish their goals by providing expertise, resources and strategic planning. Some key ways in which we do this are as follows:
Community based primary health care
In an effort to create sustainable and accessible lasting healthcare for remote populations, we provide training and resources for community based health workers, training them to diagnose and treat malaria accurately, and building their capacity to manage other common childhood illnesses, including pneumonia and diarrhoea to create a more integrated approach to care in the community and its links to the health system. In some contexts, we integrate nutrition interventions as malnutrition is both a risk factor for and a consequence of malaria and other infectious diseases.
Public health communications
An essential element of our work at community level is to create awareness and increase use of community-based health services among the target populations. We employ creative and effective behaviour change communications strategies to strengthen people’s capacity to manage their own health and make informed decisions. We have introduced community dialogues to strengthen engagement on health issues, in addition to introducing innovative approaches and tools to improving health seeking behaviour such as positive deviance, health clubs and awareness raising road-shows.
Management of drug resistance
Our Asia programme is helping to strengthen systems to support efforts to control emerging resistance to artemisinin based anti-malarial drugs in the region, particularly among vulnerable and hard to reach populations. We are working closely with governments to build and improve capacity for surveillance and monitoring, providing effective and timely treatment and ensuring best practice through public health communications.
Surveillance and monitoring
In order to track the spread of the disease, we implement innovative solutions and technologies to identify and treat cases of malaria. Our unique Beyond Garki research project in Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria, for example, analysed the impact of any and all malaria control interventions in a particular area, thereby demonstrating which combinations had the most success. In a pre-elimination setting, effective and timely disease surveillance is of increasing importance. We have introduced several innovative pilots, such as community health worker SMS messaging in Cambodia for case identification and mapping and cross-border surveillance of migrant workers to help track and treat those elusive last infections.
We carry out a wide range of operational research studies through our own implementation activities as well as with partners. These include supporting national baseline and indicator surveys, and national reviews of malaria control. We frequently conduct surveys looking at knowledge, perceptions and behaviour related to use of malaria preventive commodities in the populations that we serve. We also engage in policy analysis and development at a global and regional level, based on evidence from country programmes.’’