On June 27, Samson (Sam) Njolomole, Community Programs Manager at Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU), Partners In Health’s project in Malawi, gave an impassioned presentation on the critical role that community health workers play in treating and preventing malaria. APZU partners with the Malawian government to bring health care services, as well as programs that address poverty, to a population of 120,000 in the rural Neno district.
“Accompaniment is to answer the questions when they come, to dry the tears when they’re rolling down,” said Sam, explaining the “holistic approach” to malaria control at APZU. From a human rights perspective, and because it is simply “not fair to do a work for free,” he advocated for health workers to be paid.
Health workers distribute bed nets to all APZU patients – from pregnant women and their children to people on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Patients also get a two-week follow-up because “getting a bed net and properly and consistently using it are very different.” But APZU is facing a shortfall of bed nets right now which puts all this in jeopardy.
The lack of resources is also affecting vector control interventions (more on malaria vector control and insecticides here). They are not able to do indoor residual spraying (but looking into it) and can only provide intermittent preventive therapy.
Transportation to health facilities is another challenge Sam mentioned. “When in the rainy season most of the roads are impassable.”
Despite all this, Sam is optimistic and suggested colleagues look for resources in other ministries and offices, at all levels not just at the Ministry of health. We have a lot to do to save a lot of people’s lives, says Sam.
Sam briefly talked with me after his presentation at this year’s National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) Best Practice Sharing Workshop convened by Novartis.