Country Coordinator, PMI Impact Malaria Madagascar
As the Country Coordinator for PMI Impact Malaria’s team in Madagascar, Sandy Ralisata is most proud of her team’s efforts to shift national policy in her country from controlling malaria to elimination of the disease. In her role, she leads the project’s efforts in Madagascar 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 women’s contributions to global health, Sandy shares what brought her to a career in malaria service delivery, her proudest accomplishments, and what “a world without malaria” means to her.
What inspired you to work on malaria?
It was when I joined [PMI Impact Malaria] that I truly realized the magnitude of the impact of malaria in my country – at the household level and national level – and at the global level. I’m convinced that each one of us can contribute towards ending malaria. The positive aspect of working towards elimination of this disease is that it is possible to control malaria transmission until it is eradicated. It is difficult and depends on many factors, but it is this perspective that pushed me to completely invest myself in my work and the fight against malaria.
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?
The biggest accomplishment that I can be proud of during my work with PMI Impact Malaria is our influence in the implementation of malaria elimination in Madagascar. It is the first time my country has focused on this big challenge with a determination to eliminate the disease.
The second part of my work with PMI Impact Malaria that I’m proud of is supporting malaria microscopy and malaria diagnostics – while these activities are not new to my country, the training and focus of these activities towards elimination is innovative. Malaria microscopy concerns the entire country – in every health facility that has laboratories – but the approach for elimination is sub-national elimination. This includes all aspects of malaria control from prevention to diagnosis, case management to surveillance and case tracking, etc. which is why it is so exciting to work on elimination.
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?
Women bring a lot to the health field through our approach. We have the ability to manage or to lead and get our hands dirty. We can be a coach for our team. Women in leadership are versatile.
Women are also a pilar of the success in the fight against malaria [as those who experience the impact of malaria but also who lead in the fight towards elimination]. From their experience during pregnancy with Intermittent preventive treatment to [caring for and protecting] her family by using insecticide-treated bed nets over beds at night. It is also women who bring their family, their children, to the health facilities or to the community health worker to prevent illness or when they become sick. The woman is the best channel for sensibilization and awareness for ending malaria.
Who inspired you in your own work?
A woman named Dr. Yasmine Lethicia, who was recently nominated and appointed to be the general secretary of the Madagascar Ministry of Health. We worked together when she was still the health director in the region of Diana, a region supported by PMI Impact Malaria where we have one pilot malaria elimination district. When I worked with her in the pilot district, I really appreciated her leadership, enthusiasm, and dynamism. She impacted me on how to lead my team and how to communicate with other partners.
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?
For me, a world without malaria is a that the population and all the health facilities are aware and adopt the right behavior for the control and elimination of malaria. The consequence of this will be no more malaria cases, no more severe malaria cases, and ultimately no more death related to malaria.
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