At his home in Kanombe, a suburb of Kigali city, Damien Rwabarinda panics as Shema, his 7-months old baby tests positive to Malaria. A community health worker confirms after carrying out the test with a mobile kit.
Well trained community Health workers across the country are equipped with malaria test kits which they use daily to help detect the disease among community members.
The health workers also go around the community, registering people to receive free treated mosquito nets.
When Shema was tested, the health worker found the baby’s body temperature at 39 degrees and like similar cases was immediately transfered to a health facility. The baby’s father was panicking.
Rwabarinda is a classic example of how malaria has become a cause worth of collective efforts in Rwanda.
Government, communities and individuals have united against malaria, through different ways and platforms.
The success in treating and preventing malaria over the years has been supported through public good will to join different government campaigns against the disease.
“Malaria control success has been due to an aggressive government led roll out including; integrated mix of prevention, treatment and mosquito control activities, with a strong emphasis on strengthening our health system,” says Dr. Corine Karema, in charge of Malaria control in Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).
Imbuto Foundation, founded by first Lady Jeanette Kagame is among key organizations in sensitizing against Malaria.
Since 2011, Imbuto foundation has reached more than 800,000 Rwandans, sensitizing them on the spread, prevention and treatment of malaria.
Recently Imbuto foundation sponsored sports tournaments including; volley ball, football, basket ball and karate during which anti-malaria messages were communicated.
“Sponsoring games has targeted many youth and spectators are key in transmitting anti malaria messages,” says Clement Niyonzima, Malaria Project Officer at Imbuto Foundation.
Niyonzima says that Imbuto Foundation injected Rwf7Million in the Karate tournament alone and have reached over 400 people in each game for three consecutive days.
Messages transmitted include urging people to sleep treated bed nets, clearing bushes around homes and treating malaria at an early stage.
Didier Rurangayire, Technical Director, Rwanda Karate Federation told KTPress sports is a good communication tool, “Over 220 youths playing Karate from 18 teams have learnt a lot about malaria. Youth are vibrant and influential to their respective homes.”
Dr. Karema noted that it’s not out of the ordinary for Imbuto Foundation or government to join the fight against malaria.
“Rwanda’s success against malaria stems from political commitment, national vision, vigilant leadership and inherent responsibility throughout the health care system from highest levels to volunteer community health workers in villages,” She says.
Malaria reduction in previous years is owed to durable treated bed nets given to families.
Also indoor residual spraying campaign ongoing in districts with high prevalence including; Nyagatare,Gisagara and Bugesera. 98% of structures have been sprayed.
Meanwhile, a Demographic Health Survey indicates that malaria prevalence in children under 5years in 2007 was 2.4%. By 2010 it had reduced to 1.4%. By 2013, malaria among children under 5years had drastically reduced though malaria admission cases were registered as 8.5 %.
Dr. Karema sites challenges including; a population reluctant to using bed nets properly, substandard drugs and bed nets without effective insecticide, mosquitoes resisting insecticide and climatic changes all never easy to control.
Elsewhere, malaria has is still a major killer, especially for pregnant women and children under 5years.
In 2012, over 627,000 people died of Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to WHO report.
While Rwabarinda tests for malaria in communities, he surely knows it’s the right cause.
By: Lilian Gahima