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Fighting Malaria Takes a Village: A community health worker in Cameroon brings care directly to the homes of those who need it most

Story originally appeared as a photo essay on USAID Exposure

 

“Malaria affects many people in my community, especially children. It is worse in the rainy season. Many people can’t afford treatment in the hospitals.” 

Abdoulaye Bakary is well known in his community. When a child comes down with fever, parents call him first.  

For 15 years, Abdoulaye has worked at the Bogo health center in Balaza, the Far North region of Cameroon. He also goes beyond the health center out into his community to make health care accessible to his neighbors.  

At times he has traveled 18 kilometers by bike to monitor their health. 

     

“The best part of my job is treating children in the community for fever and providing health education to families during household visits.” 

Nearly every minute, a child dies of malaria. Of the estimated 627,000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2020, Africa shouldered the heaviest burden of the disease with 96% of all malaria deaths – 80% of those deaths were children under age 5. 

COVID-19 and malaria have similar symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and headaches. Now more than ever it is important to correctly diagnose and care for patients. In this way, malaria investments strengthen health systems and contribute directly to global health security. 

Abdoulaye is one of more than a thousand community health workers in Cameroon that the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) supports through its flagship malaria service delivery project, PMI Impact Malaria, with training, supervision, and supplies. Through PMI funds, Abdoulaye also receives a monthly stipend for transportation.  

When 4-year-old Aissatou Hamadou was “burning up,” her mother Fadimatou Ndjidda knew Abdoulaye could provide immediate care.  

Fadimatou sells fried ground nuts and dried vegetables to support her family, including Aissatou’s two younger sisters – and another on the way. As the eldest, Aissatou helps sweep the house and wash pots and plates. 

Her mother hopes she will one day go to school to become a doctor, teacher, or soldier. 

Arriving at Aissatou’s home, Abdoulaye immediately took her temperature. It was too high. Reaching into his travel bag, he grabbed a rapid diagnostic test for malaria.  

  

Within minutes the test showed Aissatou was positive for malaria. 

He pulled out educational material to show Fadimatou the treatment plan and explain the antimalarial medicines Aissatou needed to get better. 

     

Abdoulaye gave Aissatou the first dose of antimalarials on-the-spot.  

“I gave the rest of her medicines for the mother to give to the child every morning and evening for the next three days,” he explained. 

      

Abdoulaye always visits patients the next day.  

When he saw Aissatou again, Fadimatou said her daughter was feeling better already but would complete the treatment to ensure her full recovery. 

Combatting malaria “takes a village” and community health workers like Abdoulaye are working at the frontlines in the fight against this deadly disease.  

He hopes to one day live in a world without malaria, where children like Aissatou can grow up without the burden of malaria. 

“If there is no malaria, it will reduce hardship and sorrow.” 

 

 

#ENDMALARIA 

Learn more about USAID’s work to fight malaria and save lives through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative. Follow PMI on Twitter. Follow PMI Impact Malaria on Twitter

About this Story 

The U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) supports 24 partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa and three programs across the Greater Mekong Subregion in Southeast Asia to control and eliminate malaria. Led by the USAID and implemented together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PMI delivers cost-effective, lifesaving malaria interventions—such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and essential medicines—and invests in health workers and health systems to accelerate the global fight against this deadly infectious disease. Thanks to the generosity of the American people, PMI benefits more than 700 million people at risk of malaria worldwide each year. 

PMI supports health workers in Cameroon through PMI Impact Malaria, PMI’s flagship global  malaria service delivery project led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with Jhpiego, Medical Care Development International (MCDI), and the Malaria Elimination Institute (MEI) at UCSF. In support of PMI’s goal to fight malaria and save lives, PMI Impact Malaria is working with PMI focus countries and partners to strengthen malaria diagnosis, treatment, and drug-based prevention for those most at risk, particularly young children and pregnant women. 

Narrative by Taylor Prochnow and Katherine Kemp, photos by Mwangi Kirubi, PMI Impact Malaria. 

Cover Photo: Community health worker, Abdoulaye Bakary, walking along a residential street in Balaza, in the Far North region of Cameroon. Attached to the Bogo health center, he brings care closer to his community. Photo credit: Mwangi Kirubi, PMI Impact Malaria.

Posted by Taylor Prochnow at 00:00
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