#DefeatMalaria

{Photo credit: Todd Shapera}Photo credit: Todd Shapera

In the Geita District in Tanzania’s Lake Zone, some 10 kilometers from the nearest health facility, a one-year-old girl child wakes up crying with a severe fever. “We used to walk more than 10 kilometers to present our sick children to Geita Regional Hospital,” says Joyce Bahati, the girl’s mother.

Access to proper diagnosis and medicine is critical when a child develops a severe fever. A long journey can delay treatment, or for some, discourage seeking care altogether. In rural sub-Saharan Africa, where the nearest fully-functional health facility may be, at best, a three-hour journey on foot, women and children often turn first to community-based caregivers and medicines sellers or small health dispensaries as first providers of primary health care, including severe fever.

"I thought I [would] go home with a dead child. I came carrying my child on my back. She was lifeless. Now my child is well and she is walking," said the mother of 5-year-old Ajak in South Sudan.

Ajak was ill with malaria, the number one cause of death in South Sudan.  Ajak and her mother had come from Nyeith village to Panthou Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) in Aweil South County, a facility supported by the MSH-led, USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II). SHTP II focused on improving the diagnosis and treatment of malaria in that fragile state emerging from 35 years of conflict. Arriving in a coma, Ajak was admitted to the pediatric ward for further management and investigation.

The Panthou medical team immediately started Ajak on a quinine drip for a presumed malaria infection, which blood slides then confirmed. The following day Ajak remained in a coma, and her mother’s hopes for her child’s recovery were fading. In discussion with family members, Ajak's mother decided it was time to bring the sick child back home to their village.

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