Photo blog: malaria prevention is better than cure

18 October 2016

Malaria is preventable, detectable and treatable. However, it still kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. In her last posts, Emily kept a photo diary as she and her team set up and ran two emergency malaria clinics in the DRC. This time, Emily documents what the team has been doing to prevent patients being reinfected, and to stop others getting sick in the first place. 
 

Community Health Educators at training

 

At each consultation we ask patients some basic information. After the first week of the clinics, it became clear from what people were telling us that many did not have mosquito nets in their homes, or if they did, they were unsure how to use them properly.
 
We decided to provide nets to all patients under five years old who tested positive for malaria. We were already giving them to all the malaria-positive pregnant women who came to the clinics, as they are also a vulnerable group. To ensure these nets were properly used, we trained ten health educators from the community to visit the house of each patient who had received a net, to show them how to use it and explain its importance. 
 

Fixing up the nets

 

Here they are undertaking the practical part of their training where they visit patients and practice putting up the nets, asking appropriate questions and answering any concerns the families may have. The nets need to be hung above the bed or mats on which the family members sleep. Houses in the camp for displaced people are made from a structure of bamboo trellis, mud and grass. This means it's easy to find branches poking out to tie the net to.
 

One of the families the team visited
 
After the distribution of the nets and the house visits had begun, we needed to monitor how this activity was going. We visited a selection of houses who had received nets, looked at how the net had been installed and asked questions about net usage. We were impressed by what we found.
 

Cassava drying in the sun
 
The monitoring involved meandering around houses and people’s cassava drying in the sun, to find the homes of patients who had received mosquito nets.
 

the beautiful surroundings
 
I had to make daily walks around beautiful areas like this….
 

More beautiful landscapes
 
…with views like this (tough job)!
 

Woman and child
 
Here is a woman with her child, in front of the net they had installed with the help of the health educators.
 

Giggling boy in front of his house
 
And here’s another happy customer!
 
Our two malaria clinics were a short-term, emergency intervention. By the end of the 20 days they were open for, we had received over 4,200 patients and treated everyone who tested malaria positive! That was 76% of everyone who came.
 
Camp presidents and local health authorities told us that there had been fewer deaths caused by malaria in the weeks we were there and the weeks that followed. If this is the case, it is likely due to the fact that people arrived for tests and treatment earlier than they usually would if they had to go to the health centre in town, as they didn’t have as far to walk. 
 
Parents often have to work from early morning in the fields in order to feed their families. This means that when it comes to taking one of their sick children, or themselves, off to the clinic for tests and treatment, people regularly leave it until symptoms are severe. This can lead to complications and sometimes even fatalities. We think that by having a shorter distance to walk, in many instances families were able to bring their child to our clinic for treatment, as well as going to the field to work.
 
 
All photos (c) Emily Gilbert / MSF
 
 
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