Building Private Sector Capacity for Malaria Response in Malawi

 {Photo credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH}A health worker checks malaria commodities at a private clinic in Balaka, Malawi.Photo credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH

“Malaria is a very big problem that we are still fighting,” says Dr. Samantha Musasa, Medical Officer for Balaka district, located in Southern Malawi. Indeed, Malaria kills some 435,000 people around the world each year, the majority of them children. In Malawi, the prevalence of malaria among children under five remains dangerously high, at around 23.6%.

Left unattended, malaria can progress very quickly. Therefore, accurate diagnosis and timely treatment for those showing symptoms is critical to saving lives, particularly among young children.

The private health sector is an important source of malaria treatment in Balaka district, where 8 of its 22 clinics are for-profit health centers. However, standardization and coordination of case management in private, for-profit clinics remains a challenge, since they do not fall under the purview of the national Ministry of Health.

The Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity, funded by USAID and the US President’s Malaria Initiative and led by Management Sciences for Health, provides tailored mentorship, supervision and training to improve the quality of malaria diagnosis and care in private clinics.

Building on the work that ONSE and the National Malaria Control Program have done across 148 private facilities in 16 districts, targeted support for private clinics addresses major gaps including the use of presumptive treatment, lack of knowledge on current treatment guidelines, and lack of proper diagnostic skills.

{A health worker uses a rapid diagnostic test for a baby with malaria symptoms in Balaka, Malawi. Photo credit: Samy Rakatoniaina/MSH}A health worker uses a rapid diagnostic test for a baby with malaria symptoms in Balaka, Malawi. Photo credit: Samy Rakatoniaina/MSH
 
“Medicine is dynamic because the drugs change,” says Precious Mthega, a clinician and private clinic owner supported by the ONSE project. “We now have vast knowledge as far as malaria case management is concerned. The clients have benefited a lot.”

ONSE’s malaria mentors help providers stay up-to-date on evidence-based diagnostic tools, medicines, and treatment protocols to ensure they are effectively regulated and linked to the public health system.

In Balaka, twenty private health workers have benefited from ONSE’s support. “After this program, we now know when to use LA [treatment], when to use artesunate, and how to do rapid diagnostic tests for malaria. They continue monitoring us, mentoring us,” says Precious.

Dr. Musasa is optimistic for the future, “I hope that someday Malawi will be malaria free. I know it’s a long way, but I think it’s something that can be done.”