They are community volunteers who set out to mobilize their community men and women to adopt behaviors appropriate to fight malaria and stop its death toll of especially under five children and pregnant women.
Their work has changed the story of their communities: more people now sleep in`Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) seek prompt test for every fever case before treatment, more pregnant women attend ANC and take intermittent preventive treatment for malaria.
Found in Kwande, Ukum, Ushongo, Gboko, Tarka, Gwer, Oju, Ado, and Ogbadibo LGAs in Benue state, they worked on the HC3 project(USAID).
“The HC3 project has made great impact on our communities” according to Monday George, a community volunteer in Apa ward, Ado LGA. “Many of the people here are very grateful to the project for the sensitization created because they now fully understand the real danger of malaria and how to prevent it from killing them,” he added.
Another community volunteer, James Anawo Emmanuel, from Aboriko ward in Ogbadibo LGA said the HC3 project has facilitated the activation of some hitherto moribund Primary Health Centres in his ward. “those health centers were people were not patronizing now has a lot patronage because the people are aware of the free malaria test and treatment services offered there,” James said.
“I can attest that fever cases have drastically reduced in communities around here. Many of our people now sleep in LLIN and report to health facilities when they have fever,” said Mr. David Ayegba, Roll Back Malaria focal person for Ogbadibo LGA.
Their passion, commitment and dedication to duty was recognized by the Health Capacity Collaborative Nigeria (HC3). They recently received certificates of active participation duly signed by the Chief of Party, HC3 Nigeria, Ms. Anna McCartney-Melstad.
The excitement with which the community volunteers welcomed the HC3 certificates of active participation was captured by what one of them, Francis Aule from Mbaketsa ward in Kwande LGA had to say, “these certificates show us how much the HC3 project value our efforts and also how humane it is. We cannot thank the leadership of HC3 Nigeria enough for the recognition. The certificates mean a lot to us”.
Benue State bears very high burden of malaria. At least 60 per cent out of patients’ hospital attendance in the state is as a result of malaria, according to the State ministry of health and human services.
A lot of interventions have gone into the elimination of malaria, in the state. Robust collaboration between the state government and implementing partners has made possible free malaria testing and treatment in the state.
According to the Perm Sec, Benue State Ministry of Health and Human Services Dr. Joseph Kumba, at least two health facilities in every ward in the state is being supported with malaria drugs and tests kits to offer free services to people.
This is made possible with the support of the American people through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and Global Fund.
Despite the availability of free malaria commodities at HFs across the state, uptake and patronage remain an issue possibly due to lack of awareness. The HC3 project has been working in Benue State since 2015, creating demand for the commodities and advocating community ownership of the malaria elimination campaign.
Much kudos to these young men and women who have selflessly worked to change the sad situation around malaria in their communities.
This piece was written by Lucy Ackanyon, HC3 Assistant State Coordinator, Benue state