Hello, I’m Thomas Locke and this is Five Minutes, the podcast that brings you closer to the malaria experts.
Today, I thought I’d do something different. Today is World Malaria Day and across the world, people are advocating for more commitment to end malaria. Malaria is still a leading cause of death in many parts of the world, cutting short over 400,000 lives every year.
The UK charity, Comic Relief, have just shared a series of case studies from their work in Tanzania. I’d like to share some of those case studies now.
The reason why is because it’s very easy to overlook the people facing the brunt of malaria. So today, let’s listen to those people and put malaria in context. You can watch the case studies online by following this link.
Malaria is a major public health concern in Tanzania, with children under five and pregnant women most at risk. Two years ago, the people of Kigoma told Comic Relief that a lack of knowledge and education about malaria was causing the burden.
But now, two years later, thanks to the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre, funded by Comic Relief and GSK, the people of Kigoma have been equipped with the skills they need to tackle malaria. These are the voices of that project, in their own words.
First, Leonadi. He volunteers as a Community Change Agent at a local health facility. He teaches families about malaria and how they can protect themselves.
When he was 19, his first son became seriously ill. He took him to a witch doctor who told him that his child was bewitched. By the time that anyone realised it was actually severe malaria, it was too late. This is Leonadi describing the community before the project.
“The situation previously in this community was that people still did not know what malaria was and they did not know the source of malaria. When they became infected with malaria, they did not know where they were supposed to go.
Before the awareness was spread throughout the community, they were being treated using traditional herbs.”
But, thanks to the Communication and Development Centre, things have changed.
“I thank the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre for they decided to educate the community. Those who have been given education spread it around the community and the community has made progress.
People realise that when they have flu-like symptoms, they must visit a health centre to be diagnosed before taking any medication. Those diagnosed with malaria are now finishing their course of treatment.”
Those were the words of Leonadi, a community change agent at the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre.
Measuring the change in the community is Jacob. He also works for the Centre as a Field Operations Manager. He travels the country to see how their community-lead approach to malaria is seeing the number of cases and deaths decline. Here he is speaking to Comic Relief.
“In the past two years, because of the support from the Comic Relief and GSK partnership, we have seen malaria cases going down. The main reason for this decrease of malaria is because of the work which is done by the Community Health Workers.
They are putting in a lot of work at a community level to educate people to start changing their behaviours. At the health facility level, supplies are there, but in the past, they weren’t going there to get tested. But now, because of this support, people have actually realised the importance of testing for malaria before treatment. Now they are getting tested, they’re getting treated for the right disease and sleeping under mosquito nets.”
That was Jacob, of the Communication and Development Centre in Tanzania, speaking on the importance of behavioural change.
I reached out to Comic Relief for more information about their partnership with GSK and received this statement.
“Comic Relief and GSK joined forces in 2015 for a five-year partnership to fight malaria. Through this partnership, Comic Relief supports organisations working with communities and health workers to make a big impact on reducing the numbers of malaria cases and deaths caused by the disease.
“One of these organisations, the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre, is training hundreds of community health volunteers to spread the word in the heart of rural communities in Tanzania.
“So far, over the past two years, the Centre has reached 300,000 people across 1,000 villages in Geita and Kigoma, in western Tanzania, through their Community Change Agents. Fewer people are getting malaria and the communities are winning the fight. There’s still a long way to go as a child still dies from the disease every two minutes, but progress is being made, and it’s being driven by determined people like Leonadi and Jacob.”
That’s all for this episode of Five Minutes, have a lovely World Malaria Day!