Saving Young Lives Through Timely, High Quality Malaria Service Delivery in Zambia

Originally published on the PMI Impact Malaria blog.

By Katherine Kemp, PMI Impact Malaria Communications Coordinator. Editorial contributions from Mary Warsh, PMI Impact Malaria Deputy Project Director.

Both of Mary Mulenga’s children had a fever. With one child on her back and the other seated behind her, Mary rode her bicycle to the nearest health facility in Zambia’s Kalulushi district, where she and her children live. Health workers in the facility assessed that both children had malaria-like symptoms and quickly conducted rapid diagnostic tests. Within minutes, results were available: both children had malaria and were put on artemether-lumefantrine to treat their malaria infections.

“Before the introduction of these tests, it used to be very difficult for us to access such quality and quick services,” said Mary. “Those who were very sick ended up dying. But with this new malaria testing, such things don’t happen.”

Malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Zambia, especially for children under the age of five that have not yet developed partial immunity to the disease. Malaria in children can progress rapidly, and timely diagnosis and treatment can be the difference between life and death.

As the flagship global service delivery project of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), PMI Impact Malaria (IM) works with Zambia’s National Malaria Elimination Center to continuously improve the competencies of health providers in malaria diagnosis, malaria treatment, and the prevention of malaria in pregnancy through a quality improvement approach known as Outreach, Training, and Supportive Supervision (OTSS). Through OTSS, healthcare workers receive on-the-job training and supportive supervision from trained supervisors at the health facilities where they work. Supervisors use standardized checklists to assess and then build healthcare worker skills in adhering to service delivery and quality guidelines. Training and support on the correct use and interpretation of rapid malaria diagnostic tests is one of several of the areas covered with OTSS.

Currently, IM supports the National Malaria Elimination Center to improve malaria service delivery through OTSS in 17 districts across Zambia, including the Kalulushi district where Mary and her children live. Reaching a total of 394 health facilities, OTSS visits now cover 94% of health facilities across these districts and have provided nearly 3,200 healthcare workers with feedback and coaching on building their skills in diagnosing and treating malaria cases.

OTSS support helps healthcare workers provide quality malaria diagnosis and treatment services for Mary’s children and others just like them.

Header Photo Caption: Mary Mulenga and her children outside the health facility in Kalulushi, Zambia. Photo Credit: Chibuye Patrick, PMI Impact Malaria

PMI Impact Malaria is funded and technically assisted by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and is led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with JhpiegoMedical Care Development International (MCDI), and UCSF.

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