Combating Malaria One Woman at a Time

Francisca Aluoch, a community health worker at the Got Matar health clinic in Bondo, Kenya, is combating malaria in pregnancy one woman at a time. Francisca goes the extra distance—often providing care for mothers living in rural communities, far from a health center—to ensure that clients receive the lifesaving and preventive care they need throughout pregnancy to protect themselves from malaria. She also takes it upon herself to follow up with women who do not show up for their antenatal care appointments.

Francisca got worried when her patient Catherine Akinyi had not arrived for her antenatal care appointment the previous day. Francisca was concerned that the one-hour walk to the clinic had deterred Catherine, quite advanced in her pregnancy, from coming to receive her last dose of antimalarial medicine.

Francisca understood the urgency of the situation—if Catherine, who had already lost two pregnancies because of malaria, did not receive lifesaving antimalarial drugs, she might endanger her life and that of her unborn child. Unable to reach Catherine by phone, Francisca pressed visitors from Jhpiego to drive her to the woman’s home.

Francisca returned to the clinic with the pregnant mother, who confirmed to the nurse on duty that she had indeed been too tired to walk to the clinic for her antenatal care appointment.

Such appointments are critical for malaria prevention and control, and will contribute to the eventual elimination of malaria countrywide. During these clinic visits, pregnant women receive antimalarial medicine and a mosquito net and learn about malaria prevention and control.

“With my second miscarriage, I bled so much that they had to hospitalize me for a week,” Catherine said. “That is why I decided to come for [the] antenatal clinic with this pregnancy.”

Francisca can relate to such loss herself. Her own 2-month-old son died of malaria in her arms. She has never forgotten the pain of the loss, but balances it with the joy of a new life saved.

“My greatest joy is when I see a mother whom I have been monitoring throughout pregnancy safely deliver a healthy baby,” Francisca says. “That is what keeps me going.”