Fighting malaria: stories from two villages

3 May 2005

On 3 May, WHO releases the World malaria report 2005 – a comprehensive overview of malaria throughout the 107 countries and territories affected by the disease.

Globally, around 40% of the population is at risk of malaria. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the problem is greatest, 3000 children under five years old die of malaria every day.

The following two stories show how the real fight against malaria takes place village-by-village.

Villagers in Diaba, Senegal
Villagers sing and clap as they welcome Oumoul and her family

Diaba, Senegal

The Podor district of Senegal – a remote region in the north-central area of the country – has one of the most severe malaria problems in the country. In the hot, dusty village of Diaba in Podor, malaria is an ever-present problem, especially during the rainy season.

A car rolls into the village and children dash to meet it. They know this car – it is carrying a person very familiar to them.

Oumoul Khary Sow, a willowy 20-year-old from Dakar, emerges. The children gather around her while her father and sisters unload piles of plastic-wrapped insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Villagers in Diaba, Senegal
Oumoul brings insecticide-treated nets and educational messages about malaria prevention to the people of Diaba

The Sow family are volunteers who work with the Senegalese Government. They help to promote malaria control throughout this remote region, and have come to Diaba to hand out nets for families, in particular for use by pregnant women and young children.

But nets are not their only gift to the village. Over the past three years, Oumoul and her family have devoted themselves to educating the villagers about preventing and treating malaria. “When we started out, people here were resigned to having malaria – to dying from malaria,” she says. “They thought it was something they just had to accept. Now they know how to fight it – by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets and seeking medical care at the dispensary when they have a fever.”

Tonight at a village meeting, the villagers will sing, dance, thank Oumoul for her help, and encourage each other to keep up the fight against malaria.

Malaria fact file: Senegal

- Total population (2003): 10 095 000*
- Reported malaria cases (2000): 1 120 094
- Reported malaria deaths (2000): 1337
- Malaria parasite species: mainly Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly
- Malaria transmission: country-wide. A major concern is the number of malaria deaths in young children.

Source: Malaria country profile [pdf 484kb]
*Source: The world health report 2005

Patang, Cambodia

Malaria workers in Patang village, Cambodia
WHO/Stephenie Hollyman
Kaam Lamo checks the malaria treatment and diagnostics supplies in his medical kit

Important strides have been made to fight malaria in Cambodia, which mainly affects people living in remote rural areas.

In Patang village, Rattanakiri province in north-eastern Cambodia, a 35-year-old malaria worker, Kaam Lamo, counts the packs of artesunate and mefloquine combination treatments remaining in his medical kit. He also checks how many rapid diagnostic test kits for malaria he has left.

Kaam Lamo and his wife Tuk Tang live in Patang and were recruited three years ago to serve as malaria workers for their village. Each month, they receive new supplies of malaria treatment packs and diagnostic kits – supplied by Cambodia's Ministry of Health – when they attend training at the local health post. They are trained first how to diagnose people, and then how to treat people with malaria in people's homes.

Under insecticide-treated mosquito nets
WHO/Stephenie Hollyman
Programmes in Cambodia have succeeded in getting insecticide-treated mosquito nets to rural populations like Patang

Village malaria workers like Kaam Lamo and Tuk Tang are key players in a new strategy, piloted in 2001 by the Cambodia National Malaria Centre, to roll back malaria in the most remote areas of the country. Before the project began, it had become clear that the national network of health centres and posts were not reaching people living deep in the forest, so the strategy involved training villagers like Tuk Tang and Kaam Lamo to go house-to-house diagnosing and then treating people with malaria.

135 villages have been participating in a study to look at the effectiveness of this approach. The project receives support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The results so far have been impressive – the number of malaria deaths reported through health centres in the province has dropped by nearly one third in four years.

Malaria fact file: Cambodia

- Total population (2003): 14 144 000*
- Reported malaria cases (2003): 71 258
- Reported malaria deaths (2003): 492
- Malaria parasite species: mainly Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly
- Malaria transmission: a major concern among people living in the forested hills and forest fringes.

Source: WHO/RBM
*Source: The world health report 2005

Fighting malaria: four action steps that work

- Prevention, through protection against mosquito bites, with a special focus on young children and pregnant women
- Prompt treatment with effective antimalarial medicines
- Preventive antimalarial treatment for pregnant women living in areas of high malaria transmission
- Pre-empting epidemics by predicting outbreaks and acting swiftly to stop them.

Related links

Stories based on original reporting by Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid (Diaba) and Stephenie Hollyman (Patang)