Rotary members and partners fight to end malaria

By Nyreese Castro-Espadas, MD, MPH, CPH, Area of Focus Manager-Disease Prevention & Treatment, Maternal and Child Health

A community health worker tests a resident for malaria in a rural part of Zambia, in order to be able to treat the disease and prevent transmission. (Courtesy of Malaria Partners Zambia, 2021)

World Malaria Day, 25 April 2022, will be observed under the theme “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives.” Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease, spread by infected mosquitos, that continues to have a devastating impact on the health of communities, all over the world.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the percentage of deaths due to communicable diseases was showing a decline globally, but diseases such as malaria remained and still remain a challenge, primarily in low- and middle-income countries. While some countries have eliminated malaria or made significant advances to reduce the number of cases, progress has plateaued in other regions of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2020, there were an estimated 241 million new cases of malaria and 627,000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries. More than two thirds of deaths were among children under the age of 5 living in the WHO African Region.

At Rotary, members are connecting with their local health authorities, community leaders and partners to develop projects that combine forces to address malaria under both Disease Prevention and Treatment and Maternal and Child Health.

The way we address malaria may vary from community to community and is largely based on the level of transmission within that particular community, country, or region. However, some evidence-based strategies that Rotary members use to develop projects include:

  • Supporting programs that improve case management by increasing access to diagnosis and treatment
  • Providing insecticide-treated nets
  • Supporting programs that provide intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnant women
  • Supporting programs that provide intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infancy
  • Supporting vector control interventions such as indoor residual spraying and larval control
  • Strengthening surveillance systems that support malaria detection, control, and elimination

We use local guidelines to determine what the appropriate interventions are for a particular community. It’s also important to include ways to build capacity for health care providers, and involve community health workers who have a unique ability to reach communities and provide access to health care.

Within the Rotary community, the Rotarians Against Malaria Rotary Action Group and Rotary member-founded Malaria Partners International are focused on eliminating malaria by raising awareness and funds, and implementing projects that are proven to reduce malaria. The first Rotary member-led program to receive The Rotary Foundation’s $2 million Programs of Scale grant is Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia. This program team is currently implementing a three-year program to recruit, train, and support 2,500 new community health workers to test for, treat, and prevent malaria among more than 1.2 million Zambians, mostly in hard-to-reach areas.

Rotary members around the world are working with partners to combat malaria in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America and elsewhere with a high burden of malaria. This World Malaria Day, we applaud their work and invite others to join them in the fight against malaria.

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