Valentine, her four-year-old son Ernest in tow, made her way to her local health center in the village of Tovor in the Sud-Ouest region of Burkina Faso. On this cool morning in the Harmattan season, characterized by dry and dusty trade winds, she needed to see the nurse. After welcoming Valentine, the nurse asked the reason for her visit. Handing the nurse her child’s health record, the mother said, “I came so that you can tell me if he has received all of his vaccinations.” The nurse examined Ernest and reassured the mother that the child was in good health and up to date on his vaccinations. Visibly relieved, Valentine went on to say, “My child has had no fever for three years!”
Every July, when the rainy season starts in Burkina Faso, mosquitoes grow more prevalent and transmission of malaria increases dramatically. This is the time when the majority of malaria cases are recorded and when it is crucial for health care workers to intervene. Through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI)-funded Improving Malaria Care (IMC) project, Jhpiego has promoted the use of bed nets nationwide and seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns in 12 districts. The IMC project has trained and supported community health workers on the distribution of SMC to children, and community members have taken note.
Malaria places a heavy burden on Burkina’s population, with more than 10 million cases and thousands of deaths each year. Fevers, which are common in tropical climates and a frequent symptom of malaria, can be especially dangerous for children. Children who come down with fever in Burkina Faso must be taken to the health center for diagnosis and treatment. Most parents and caregivers understand the severity of an untreated fever, but for many families in this region, taking a child to the health facility means losing a day’s work.
When asked why she thought her son had gone for so long without a fever, Valentine credited Nicolas, Tovor’s community health worker, who works directly with the families in the village, knocking on doors and checking in with residents. Last July, as part of the SMC campaign, Nicolas visited Valentine and her family and made sure that Ernest was taking his antimalarial drugs. He also asked if the family was using a mosquito net. “We sleep every night under the mosquito net and Ernest grew up without being sick at all,” Valentine said. “This gives me time to sell beignets in the market and take care of my children.”
Tovor, along with other villages in this district, has participated in the SMC campaigns since 2017. These campaigns aim to provide all children under age five with three doses of an antimalarial drug every month over a four-month period to prevent this susceptible group from falling ill with the disease. Since 2018, at least 400,000 children have been protected from malaria thanks to community health workers like Nicolas and the IMC project’s support. During the 2019 campaign, 100% of the 1,250 children under age five in Tovor received SMC treatment. Like Valentine, parents in Tovor are grateful for the SMC campaign and its role in keeping their children fever and malaria free.