Malaria is one of the most significant health threats in Ethiopia where, in spite of available preventive measures, many people remain unsure of the ways to protect themselves from the threat of this disease. Thanks to Malaria Consortium's Integrated community based interventions for malaria services (ICIMS) project, which uses social mobilisation to spread the word about malaria prevention, infection rates in the project areas of Halaba and Boloso Sore are now dropping.
Stocks of anti-malaria drug Coartem at Galato Health Post, Halaba, Ethiopia
The district of Halaba is one area in the Southern Nation Nationalities People’s Region (SNNPR) where malaria was rife, with 100 people on average testing positive for malaria each day during the peak malaria season. Since the beginning of the project, Health Extension Workers, like Yitaysh and Atrzebua, have noticed a significant decrease in the number of people testing positive for malaria.
Yitaysh and Atrzebua have worked at the Health Post in the village of Galato, Halaba, for over 10 years. "Since the launch of the ICIMS project, there has been a decrease [in the number of people with malaria] because prevention awareness is done well and people know how to protect themselves. People are also seeking help earlier than before, because they now know that fever is a warning sign," said Yitaysh.
Yitaysh and Atrzebua at the Health Post in Galato, Halaba, Ethiopia
"Prior to the project, fever was not taken as a serious symptom of malaria. Malaria was seen as the result of superstition, the ‘evil eye’. Once the social mobilisation activities began, within 24 hours there was a peak in the number of people coming to the Health Post with fever. Most of those suffering were children," explained Atrzebua.
Thanks to the ICIMS project, health extension workers like Yitaysh and Atrzebua have received additional training to educate people about ways to protect themselves from malaria. Their messages are strengthened by the messages shared by children benefitting from anti-malaria school clubs who tell their families how to properly use long lasting insecticidal nets and explain that pregnant women must sleep under nets every night.
“Thanks to the school clubs, students and communities now have a better understanding about malaria and how to prevent it. The roadshows that visit the community are also a great way to keep the community conversation about malaria going. We think these are the reasons why we are now seeing fewer people with malaria,” said Atrzebua.
The ICIMS project
With the support of the James Percy Foundation, the ICIMS project was designed to support the Ethiopian health system and improve the lives of the community. Malaria represents a significant public health threat in Ethiopia, especially SNNPR where malaria awareness and health seeking behaviour was low. To boost awareness of the threat of malaria, this project encourages community dialogue about malaria and the associated risks. Community roadshows, school anti-malaria clubs and materials accessible to all play a significant role in the dissemination of information about how to prevent malaria.