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Last month Dorothy Echodu, CEO of Pilgrim Africa, led a project site evaluation team to the remote village of Agule in the Katakwi District of Uganda to assess implementation of the Pilgrim Africa-Malaria Partners International-Gates Foundation malaria intervention program.

Among others, the evaluation team included Abigail Pratt, Peter Berry, and Fallon Schneider (pictured above, with Dr. Omusei) with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Joel Okalaney, RMP Uganda Board member and Assistant Governor for Rotary District 9211; Soroti Central Rotary Club President Richard Omusei (pictured above); President-Elect Susan Kituyi, and Treasurer Jude Ojalel; Dr. Mame Niang of the President’s Malaria Initiative based in Uganda; Grey Frandsen, Chair of the Pilgrim Africa International Board, and several members of Pilgrim Africa staff including Wycliff Odude, Entomologist.

The field team met with members of the Village Health Team Volunteers (VHTs) and accompanied them as they made their rounds in the outlining area.  Some of the more notable observations included:

  • In one family a young girl with a severe fever was tested for malaria. Since the test was negative, the VHT proceeded to test the child for pneumonia to determine if she required amoxicillin, which VHTs carry among their Rotary/Malaria Partners International funded medical supplies.
  • During net inspections in one papyrus thatched hut, the field team found the newer and more effective PBO nets (imbued with the chemical piperonyl butoxide) were neatly folded in the corner while the family continued using older nets, feeling they were still serviceable. The field team explained it was important to use the newer nets as they contain insecticides the mosquitos have not built up resistance to.
  • Realizing that other families in the region might have the same misconception, Dr. Joel Okalaney and Osborn Omoding, Pilgrim’s Project Officer, took the initiative to arrange for a local language radio interview, which could be rebroadcast, to emphasize the importance for local residents to use the newer mosquito netting.
  • To assess the mosquito burden in the area, Wycliff Odude set up overnight light traps in numerous villagers’ huts to capture and count mosquito prevalence.  In one hut, in just one night, the trap yielded over 300 mosquitos – a sober reminder of the necessity for malaria intervention work in this area of Uganda.

Wycliff Odude (left) and Dr. Mame Niang examine a mosquito-filled Light trap.

The Katakwi Rotary Malaria Project has been running for three years, and this is the second phase of the project.  When the team returned from the field, members shared their reflections.  President Richard and Dr. Joel shared their joy at the spontaneous praise and appreciation the community members had for their “village doctors” during the visit.  “The way he [the home owner] put it” said President Richard, “They are not going to see malaria killing people anymore. Once a child falls sick, he will report immediately and be treated.” He reflected, “I was very happy when I heard they don’t have the burden anymore, that treatment is available at any time, you can approach the VHT and you are tended to.”  Dr. Joel described the three main questions he had before the visit: 1) Is the community happy to have the VHTs? 2) does the VHT know what he is doing? (also yes!) and 3) Is what the VHT is doing effective? All three were a resounding “yes!”

Dr. Joel expresses his strong satisfaction with the visit.

The clinical officer in charge of a health center in the project area gave a presentation to the team celebrating the project’s impact to date.

Among the most notable achievements:

  • outpatient visits of all kinds to his health center have dropped by over 50% since the project started in late 2016;
  • positivity rates have dropped in those that do come in;
  • no deaths from malaria have been reported since the project began.

After having passed several family burial grounds with heartbreakingly small graves laid out between the large ones, this news brought a round of applause.