Fighting Malaria in Zambia During A Pandemic
By Eric Liswaniso, Program Manager, Malaria Partners Zambia
As Zambia continues to grapple with the rising death toll due to COVID-19 with over 2,000 Zambians now dead, the government last month announced measures aimed at mitigating the spread of the disease. Some of the measures taken include the suspension of all public gatherings and meetings for 21 days. As a result, Programs of Scale project activities have also been affected. The training of 240 Community Health Workers (CHWs) which should have been undertaken at the end of last month has had to be rescheduled indefinitely. This setback has a ripple effect and threatens to undermine gains made in the fight against malaria. Such is the healthcare dilemma facing, not only our country, but the rest of the world. How do we fight COVID-19 without neglecting or undermining efforts to fight other deadly diseases like Malaria?
While COVID-19 is no doubt very deadly, there is a danger that gains made in the fight to end malaria in Zambia may be lost if malaria intervention efforts are neglected in light of the pandemic. A balance needs to be found and fast.
The Partners for a Malaria-free Zambia understands that times like these call for innovative and adaptive leadership. While the pandemic ravages the nation, we are alive to the fact that malaria is also wrecking its own havoc. In the first 3 months alone, the project trained about 500 CHWs in Central and Muchinga provinces. An additional 240 would have been graduating this just ended weekend had it not been for the suspension of activities. The program management team, led by Martha Lungu, the Executive Director for Malaria Partners Zambia, however refused to be passive and has continued to implement low-risk activities aimed at supporting the CHWs who have graduated to begin providing primary healthcare at Community level.
On the 12th of July, the Program Manager – Muchinga Province traveled to Lavushimanda district to the 141 CHWs who were trained and are now ready to deploy. During the short handover ceremony, the District Health Director expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Rotary and its partners for the support they continue to render to his district and admonished the CHWs to be good stewards of the enablers and bicycles they had been provided with. He also called on the CHWs to be consistent in their reporting now that they had been empowered with smart phones to aid in reporting.
During the same ceremony, the District Administrative Officer who was representing the District Commissioner also thanked the partners for complimenting government efforts in fighting malaria and reiterated governments commitment to end malaria in Zambia. He further urged the CHWs to lead by example in their community held in creating awareness around the Coronavirus disease. He announced that government was in the process of distributing the vaccine to community members and urged the CHWs to get vaccinated and also encourage their communities to get vaccinated as the only sure way to defeat the virus. He assured the CHWs that the vaccine was safe.
With the 141 officially commissioned to work, an important step has been taken towards maintaining the gains achieved in the fight to end malaria.
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