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Five-year-old Melanie lives on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city in Chainda compound, a settlement that is less than one square kilometer (.24 square mile) yet houses approximately 26,000 people. She spends her days running around the maze of dirt roads and alleyways, playing with the dozen siblings and neighbor children near her brick and mud home.
In late July she tested positive for malaria at Chainda Clinic, her small body exhibiting some of the most common symptoms, fever and chills, of a disease that affects approximately four million and kills 8,000 Zambians annually, according to UNICEF. More than 50 percent of those killed by the disease are children under the age of five.
Her positive malaria test immediately set off a chain of events. A Reactive Case Detection team, including a nurse, environmental health technologist and community health worker, dispatched to Melanie’s neighborhood. Within 90 minutes, the team tested family members and the nearest neighbors. The GPS locations of the homes and the test findings were then entered into a tablet- painting an on the ground real time picture of malaria statistics in that neighborhood of Lusaka.
Chainda Clinic is a part of a community led surveillance initiative, called Step D, taking hold in selected parts of Zambia. The Zambia Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Center (NMCC) in partnership with organization, Akros, are working to create five malaria-free zones by 2015, as proposed in the Zambia National Malaria Strategic Plan (2011-2016).
The first of its kind on the African continent, the community health worker malaria surveillance network mixes community mobilization and simple technology to tackle malaria in Zambia.
“In the past we used paper-based forms to collect data from the field and would send them to National Malaria Control Centre physically,” said Mwila Sianankange, an environmental health technologist (EHT) at Chainda Clinic. “This would take a much longer reporting time period.”