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Archive for the ‘Malawi’ Category

Posted by Catherine Seneviratne, MACEPA Project Administrator

Helping out with the 2010 Malawi Malaria Indicator Survey was the first time I had really ever participated in fieldwork.  I have worked in Zambia and Ethiopia before, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip—and what stuck with me wasn’t what I expected.  I’ve heard quite a bit about politicians, donors, and national governments helping to fight malaria, but what moved me the most during my trip was hearing stories from people who are out in the field working with sick people every day: the nurses, the lab technicians, the health workers.

Taking medication

Showing a young child how to treat his malaria

I arrived in Malawi in March, and my second day helping to implement the actual survey was spent with a group outside the town of Dedza.  I was lucky enough to be working with two lab techs, two nurses, and someone helping to map all the houses we stopped at. It was really amazing to watch these people work and see how they adapted to every difficult situation, providing the best care possible to every person we tested for malaria.

I watched as one particular lab tech named Makamo took the lead at a household.  He did everything perfectly, just as he was taught at the training.  The lab tech tested a 5-year-old boy who came up positive for both anemia and malaria. Just as the tech was finishing up, he went off course slightly.  He gave the mother medicine for her son—CoArtem—and instructed her on proper administration of the drug, then he asked her to repeat back to him how to use it.  I had attended the training and knew how lab techs are told to handle these situations, but I don’t remember that step.

After the mother proved she understood the treatment, the lab tech then went to the sick boy and told him how to the drug was going to be administered.  He asked the boy questions to make sure he understood, that he would take all the medication needed to make him get better.  It may seem like a little detail, but it could be the difference between that little boy staying sick and getting well.  The tech wasn’t just giving the mother the drugs—he was empowering her.  She now understood what she could do to make her son better.  He also told her which signs would tell her whether her son was sick with malaria again.

Planning is important, so is training and procurement, but having people who care at every level can make all the difference in the fight against malaria.

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Recording household data

Recording household data with a handheld personal digital assistant

Posted by Chris Lungu, MACEPA Monitoring and Evaluation Officer

The rainy season is wrapping up and it just took me more than two days to drive the 700 kilometers back to Zambia’s capital from Lilongwe, Malawi, where I was helping to conduct the country’s first national malaria indicator survey (MIS).  Driving through Malawi is very nice. The country has beautiful trees, there is Lake Malawi and good fish to eat. But when you are on the road, it can be easy to forget about some of the important things that you can’t see—like so many young children that are home sick with malaria, some of them fighting for their lives. 

Sorting supplies

Sorting medicines, diagnostics and other supplies needed to conduct survey work

I was in Malawi for almost two months, where I met daily with staff from the Malawi National Malaria Control Program to help lay the groundwork for the country’s malaria indicator survey, agreeing on indicators, mobilizing logistics, training people to use PDAs, and then going out in the field and doing the work. The days we were out in the field were long, spent testing children for malaria, treating the ones that tested positive, and recording data.

I’ve been on the road a lot during the last several years, working in the malaria control frontlines in Zambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, but this type of work always moves me, because there are human lives at stake. When you are out in the field, you see all these problems in front of you and you know someone has to do something about it. This is our contribution – MACEPA’s contribution – to really help countries deal with malaria. The malaria indicator survey shows where the problems are happening and provides us with the information we need to do something about it.

This is an especially important time for Malawi to conduct an MIS, because their ten-year national malaria strategic plan is coming to an end in June and they need this national data to inform planning for the next decade. Malawi is on schedule to finish their survey work on April 26, the day after World Malaria Day, and for the first time we’ll have powerful data to talk about at the national level. A lot of people are interested in these results and I won’t be surprised if the MIS becomes a tool for mobilizing efforts and resources in the country. Having seen it in Ethiopia and Zambia, I feel confident that this can be the tool that will change the malaria landscape in Malawi.

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