Chief of Party, PMI Impact Malaria DRC
Dr. Ange Landela began her career as a doctor with a vision to help those in her country. With that training and her work as a biologist and a researcher, she became focused on disease prevention. She is now the Chief of Party for PMI Impact Malaria’s team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In this role, she leads the project’s efforts in DRC to support the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) and Ministry of Health to strengthen the health system’s capacity for prevention and treatment of malaria and to enhance the country’s ability to collect and use data for decision-making.
In celebration of International Women’s Day and contributions to global health, Ange shares what brought her to a career in malaria service delivery, her proudest accomplishments, and what “a world without malaria” means to her.
What prompted your earliest awareness of malaria and how did it become the focus of your career?
In Africa, especially in my country the DRC, malaria constitutes a real public health problem. This disease affects children under 5 years of age and pregnant women. For me it is unimaginable that a woman dies while giving life and sometimes also a child dies, [a child] that represents the future of tomorrow. This is what sparked in me my interest in the fight against malaria.
I started my career in the world of malaria as a doctor. First of all, as a generalist and afterwards as a specialist working on malaria prevention, I worked to collect mosquitos in the field to test insecticide effectiveness as well as to test for remanence*. Along my career, I have also conducted research showing that malaria constitutes a real problem in our country. Through this research we have scientific evidence to inform, create and change strategies in national politics. This is where I started my career.
*Residual mosquito breeding after the insecticide has been used in a particular area.
When you think about your time with PMI Impact Malaria, what is an accomplishment of which you are most proud or that you feel has driven the impact that we’re all working towards collectively?
I participated through my project PMI Impact Malaria on health system strengthening activities, working to improve the quality of malaria case management through diagnosis, health worker training and supportive supervision. These activities allowed laboratory health providers to improve their skills and correct malaria case management.
Have you noticed a decrease in cases or have you seen your community overall become healthier and less impacted by malaria over time?
In the DRC, the distribution of malaria is like a leopard skin. There are some communities that have a very high prevalence and there are also communities that have weaker prevalence. This is due to climate, because we do not have the same climate everywhere. Where there is a lot of rain, there is elevated malaria prevalence and where there is not much rain, prevalence is lower.
Our interventions in the community have allowed us to determine prevalence thresholds at the country level. We feel that there is a clear change in the community. We do not yet have clear evidence that that is the case, but we can tell a difference through the decreasing number of malaria cases in children that are seen in health centers.
Women are disproportionately impacted by malaria, but they are also a driving force in efforts to end malaria. As we celebrate women in science this month and look towards International Women’s Day in March, what does it mean to you to be a leader for other women in this field?
Every woman is a leader, she plays a key role in the fight against malaria. In the domain of malaria prevention, women play a key role using insecticide-treated bed nets in their community and encouraging pregnant women to seek regular prenatal visits. Also, women contribute to the treatment domain by encouraging health service visits and raising awareness of “de proche en proche*” in the community. That is to say, inasmuch as I am a doctor, a leader in the malaria space, I am a woman and I must encourage other women to go step by step to spread awareness about malaria. We say in Africa, exchange “de proche en proche” is one of the most effective ways to transmit information in a community.
* “de proche en proche” literally translates to “from close to close” and in this context refers to the influence of the individual relationship while exchanging information one-to-one with someone with whom you similarly identify (e.g. a woman encouraging another woman to seek care)
Looking ahead in our lifetime when we get to the point where we've reached an end to malaria, what does a world without malaria mean to you and what does it look like to you?
Eradicating malaria is primordial for us. Malaria is the first cause of death in the DRC and affects children under 5 and pregnant women. It is also the primary cause of student absenteeism from school. To eradicate this disease each one of us must be involved in the fight against malaria. Not just me Ange, but also you [the reader]. We must all be involved in the fight against malaria. For me, a world without malaria is really a space where each one of us contributes effectively to the spreading of awareness in the community on practices to eradicate malaria, all in order to finally see a world without this disease.
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