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The Love We Have In Zambia, volunteers combat malaria by ensuring donated treatments reach rural community hands

Doreen Hanzala understands what it means to dedicate yourself to the ones you love.

A mother of two, Doreen has spent her whole life in Hakaloba — a small farming village in the Nalube area of southwestern Zambia. Growing up, she never had opportunities for higher education or formal training. She never had access to stable employment or a steady income. But she had Hakaloba. Her family. Her friends. Her community.

That community, however, is at risk.

Malaria is the number one cause of hospitalization in Zambia and a major cause of morbidity and mortality. All of the country’s 17.5 million inhabitants are vulnerable to the mosquito-borne disease, but residents of rural communities have a three to four times greater risk of contracting malaria than their urban counterparts.

Health facilities in these areas often struggle to provide sufficient treatment, resulting in a mortality rate of 2 percent.

To create greater access to treatment in Zambia, since 2016, the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project, on behalf of PMI, has been procuring and delivering critical health products to combat malaria.

While accessible within Zambia, these medicines still need to be delivered throughout the country. Volunteer community health workers, like Doreen, are essential to ensuring that high-risk, remote locations, like Hakaloba, receive the medicines they need. Doreen travels throughout the Nalube area to hand-deliver antimalarials and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). She is fueled by determination, and equipped with knowledge and skills on HIV, nutrition, family planning, and malaria that were taught to her by nurses at the Nalube Health Center. With limited access to transportation, Doreen covers the distances by any means necessary.

“I was taught to ride a bicycle by my older brother, Mark. [The bike I use] is owned by my cousin, Simon. I borrow it when I go out for community service and I have to cover long distances…I enjoy riding bicycles.

In fiscal year 2018, GHSC-PSM procured $3.6 million in ACTs for Zambia, enough to treat 7.1 million malaria infections. These ACTs are distributed beyond the health facility level with the help of self-empowered volunteers like Doreen.

Doreen Hanzala
“I come from a poor family. I come from Hakaloba village. [It is] a community where the only sources of income are farming or small, family businesses,” Doreen said of her home. “But the love we have for each other is more than our challenges. The community helps one another in times of difficulties.”

In 2019, GHSC-PSM is working with the Ministry of Health to develop guidelines and train community health workers on commodity management given their critical role in the supply chain.

Because of committed CHWs like Doreen — and with the continuing support of donors like PMI, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the Gates Foundation-funded MACEPA project — southern Zambia is now heralded as a remarkable success in the fight against malaria.

In addition to antimalarials, Doreen also delivers antiretroviral drugs to combat HIV/AIDS, antibiotics, and family planning commodities. While serving as an exemplar of how love can support a community, Doreen is not alone.

As of 2017, Zambia had approximately 2,982 health facilities nationwide — many supported by a community health worker. Each one supported by love.

For more information, please go to: USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program Portal

Credits:

GHSC-PSM

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