SCI, partners support 8,300 community health workers with bikes, medical kits to combats malaria in Cote d’Ivoire

A team of about 8,300 community health workers supported by Save the Children and group of local partners have been equipped with bikes and medical kits to reduce malaria mortality among children under five by diagnosing and treating the disease in remote villages in Cote d’Ivoire.

Save the Children’s Malaria Project Director in Cote D’Ivoire, Dr Yssouf Ouattara, said Malaria is preventable and curable, but without access to care it can become deadly especially for young children.

He explained that the innovative community health projects like the one run by Save the Children in Cote D’Ivoire are important because the community health workers are able to see and treat children at home and in communities, leading to hugely improved results.

He said Save the Children has been working in Cote D’Ivoire since 1991, working across education, health and nutrition, child protection and child rights, and to fight against child poverty.

According to him, the malaria project is implemented in about 53 health districts in the country and in more than 1,270 health areas, in collaboration with six other organisations.

Also, a community health worker François Kouadio, 46, a father of six himself, said he trained as a community health worker in 2015 and runs blood tests on children to test for malaria and, if positive, treats them with paracetamol and malaria tablets.

He also provides care for pregnant women in the village to make sure their risk of getting malaria is minimal.

One family he helped this year was that of Prisca, 28, who noticed changes in her third and youngest child Charlene. Her one-year-old daughter lost her appetite, lacked the energy to play, and spent most of her time sleeping. One night, Charlene* was struggling to breathe properly and was shivering with a high fever.

François has been able to scale up his work in recent years due to having a bike, visiting up to eight families a day within a five-kilometre radius. He pedals along dirt roads to rural villages where brick houses stand among green forests. He checks if any children are sick, provides appropriate treatment, while raising awareness about malaria and how to prevent it.

François’s hard work and dedication has won him respect within the community, where people even call him ‘doctor’. Every ding from bells on bikes used by François and three other community health workers brings comfort to the people in the villages knowing that healthcare is accessible.

Francois said from January to March this year, he tested 31 children with fevers, of whom 24 tested positive for malaria and received treatment. This was a massive drop from previous years.

“In the past, between 20 and 30 children were registered with malaria in a month alone, but with more awareness on malaria, almost everyone now sleeps under a mosquito net and malaria cases have dropped significantly,” he said.