Meet the health workers at the frontlines of disease control: Q&A with a rural health worker

Dorothy Ibrahim – rural health worker in Guaraka Nigeria

Dorothy Ibrahim is a rural health worker of many years’ standing. She is a proud contributor to the fight against malaria in the rural settlement of Gauraka, just outside Abuja in Niger State. Nigeria is one of the world’s most malaria endemic countries, accounting for approximately a quarter of all deaths from the disease worldwide. Kolo Yakubu, Senior Technical Malaria Officer at Malaria Consortium in Nigeria, spoke to Dorothy about her role as a rural health worker and the impact that SuNMaP – Support to National Malaria Control Programme – a partnership programme led by Malaria Consortium, has had on her role.

You’ve been working for many years in this area. What changes have you seen during that time?

When I first started working here, many years ago, I would do all that the books demanded but still lose the baby. Severe malaria claimed the lives of one in 15 children under-five in my area. The traditional healer would prescribe herbal concoctions and tell parents that their baby would get well before morning. But the baby would die of worsened fever that same night.

Years went by and the local health centre was upgraded to a model primary healthcare centre. There was more modern equipment and training from SuNMaP, as well as long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and intermittent malaria preventive therapies for pregnant women (IPTp). All these have changed the course of service provision. Nowadays, I never see severe cases of malaria in babies at all.

How would you describe your role in malaria control in Gauraka?

I support the home management of malaria by working with community volunteers that we call community care givers. They work with local people to identify fevers and give drug treatment as necessary. I tell them to refer persistent fever cases to me. I also give talks about how to hang the LLINs properly and take care of them, and encourage environmental sanitation and hygiene.

Since the LLINs and IPTp support to first time mothers started, cases of anaemia and severe malaria have declined. There have been none at all in the three years since SuNMaP began.

Support to National Malaria Control Programme

These positive changes have been facilitated by SuNMaP – Support to National Malaria Programme – and other agencies in collaboration with the State Malaria Control Programme (SMCP). SuNMaP provides support to the Nigerian government and people in tackling the massive burden of malaria in the country. It is implemented by international and local partners, funded by UKAid and managed by Malaria Consortium. SuNMaP works in close co-operation with Nigeria’s National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), in selected states and Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the country.

In addition to mosquito nets and drugs for malaria treatment, SuNMaP has provided training to senior management staff at the LGA level, which has been cascaded down through the LGA to staff, like Dorothy, in health facilities across Nigeria.