by Ryan Hyland
The Rotary Foundation is giving a significant boost to the fight against malaria in Zambia with a new $2 million Programs of Scale grant that will scale an already successful program model. Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia is a Rotarian-led effort that will use a community health worker model proven to effectively respond to cases of malaria and prevent transmission. The program aims to help reduce malaria cases over time by 90% in 10 target districts in two of the country’s provinces.
Malaria, a preventable disease caused by a parasite spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes, continues to be one of Zambia’s leading causes of illness and death, especially infant and maternal deaths.
The grant will allow Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia to strengthen the country’s health system by working with Zambian health officials at all levels and training 380 health facility staff members, as well as training and equipping more than 2,500 new community health workers. This will increase access to malaria diagnosis and treatment for the more than 1.3 million people in heavily affected areas in the Central and Muchinga provinces and greatly contribute to the national effort to eliminate the deadly disease.
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Federal Way, Washington, USA, the program brings together local Rotary members and partner organizations who share a goal to combat malaria in Zambia. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and World Vision USA will co-fund the program with $2 million each, bringing total funding to $6 million.
“This project complements and builds upon the leadership of the government of Zambia in working to eliminate malaria from the country,” says Philip Welkhoff, director of the Malaria Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are thrilled to expand on our longstanding partnerships with Rotary and World Vision to advance progress in hard-to-reach communities and to realize the goal of ending malaria for good.”
To diagnose and treat community members, health workers will be supplied with rapid diagnostic test kits, anti-malaria medicine, lancets for finger pricks, and educational materials. They’ll also receive bicycles and mobile phones, allowing them to reach communities and regularly report cases and share malaria data within the national health system. Making sure local and national information is integrated and providing ongoing support for the community health worker network are essential to the program’s goal of strengthening provincial health services for long-term success fighting malaria.
By empowering these volunteers, who are selected by their fellow community members, the project connects people in areas with limited access to health care with trusted members of their community, says Bill Feldt, a member of the Federal Way club.