Nurse Bea Nasaré is the face of Jhpiego’s most recent private-public partnership to provide malaria prevention and treatment services to women and children in Cameroon and Chad.
With generous support from the ExxonMobil Foundation, this 26-year-old nurse has learned the skills and health interventions necessary to help protect women and families from malaria in Cameroon’s Kribi Health District. This work is part of Jhpiego’s ongoing efforts to partner with countries in building the capacity of health care workers and strengthening health systems to prevent the needless deaths of women and families. In the central African country of Cameroon, as many as 1.5 million cases of malaria are reported each year.
“This training is very important to me because it has created in me a great awareness of the measures which can be used to fight against one of the most prevalent diseases in our communities,” said Nasaré, who works at the South Regional Delegation of Public Health. “It has given me some sort of assurance that things can be better if, and only if, people could change their perception of the present situation and their attitudes and together fight against malaria.”
In Chad, malaria is the leading cause of disease (22.6 percent) and death (19 percent), with an estimated 500,000 malaria cases every year. Reports show that less than three percent of children under five years of age sleep under a specially treated bed net, and only 12 percent of pregnant women receive the recommended treatment to prevent malaria—far short of the internationally accepted standard of 80 percent.
In Cameroon, a country of nearly 20 million, the percentage of children under five years of age sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets is estimated at 21 percent, and only 26 percent of pregnant women receive the accepted dose of medicine to prevent malaria. In Kribi District, there are 11 functioning health facilities and one regional hospital to serve 128,000 people.
Building on the successes and achievements of Jhpiego’s malaria prevention work in Angola and Nigeria, the ExxonMobil Foundation offered to help implement a malaria in pregnancy (MIP) prevention program in malaria-endemic districts along the oil pipeline in Chad and Cameroon. The program is being implemented in the Doba, Beboto, Bodo, Bebedjia Districts in the East Logone region of Chad and the Kribi District in coastal Cameroon.
As part of its strategy to strengthen malaria prevention and treatment services, Jhpiego is collaborating with the Ministries of Health in Chad and Cameroon to develop and update national guidelines and policies on malaria prevention and treatment, and to share them with frontline health providers working in regional and district facilities. The organization develops innovative solutions to address today’s global health challenges and works with communities to increase frontline health workers’ ability to deliver lifesaving care.
As part of this work, Jhpiego has begun educating health care workers, such as Nasaré, in the targeted five districts in Chad and Cameroon. So far, 33 trainers from the provincial and district levels and 76 providers (doctors, high- and middle-level nurses, midwives, and laboratory and hygiene technicians) in health facilities have been trained. The training courses focus on the systematic use of rapid diagnostic tests (RTDs) to diagnose malaria before treatment and of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), intermittent preventive treatmentfor pregnant women, epidemiological surveillance and data reporting.
These health care workers are then expected to share their new skills with colleagues in community training courses to help build the capacity of community health volunteers in delivering health messages to residents, encouraging women to receive prenatal care and integrating malaria in pregnancy services with overall health care.
“What I have acquired here will help me a lot in my other health activities, especially in the training of health workers on the fight against neglected tropical diseases,” said Nasaré. “I will also be able to sensitize others on the fight against malaria and encourage them to take the ACT when ill.”
Because of a dearth of qualified health care workers, Jhpiego’s malaria prevention work includes recruiting community health volunteers to educate residents on the use and maintenance of insecticide-treated bed nets and the importance of vaccinations. In Chad, for example, the majority of trained midwives live and work in the capital, not in the countryside, and 21 percent of health centers don’t have enough staff to function properly.
As a result, community health volunteers become a critical resource. They must communicate the benefits of intermittent preventive treatment for MIP and help develop a health care referral system so that women will seek out prenatal care and other services from their local health facilities to protect themselves and their families.