What will prevent a poor rural child from dying of malaria? Nutrition? Education? A clean environment? A responsive health system?
By Enoch Osafo*
The Methodist Church in Ghana operates three health centers in the Lake Bosomtwe catchment area, which has 24 rural communities.
These centers participated in the implementation of the Imagine No Malaria program in Ghana from January to November 2017.
Francis Kwarteng, 14; his 10- year-old brother and their unemployed father lived with the boys’ grandmother in Atafram, one of the lake communities.
The brothers were taken to the Methodist Health Center in Amakom with severe malaria in November 2016.
Lacking the resources to care for the boys, the center immediately transferred them to the district hospital in Pramso,18 miles away. They were treated, discharged and reviewed at the health center a week later.
A few months later, Francis’ brother became ill again and was rushed to the health center at Amakom. He died on arrival, and it was later determined that the cause of death was severe anemia.
Concerned, the clinic staff followed up with a visit to Francis. He looked OK. However, the day after the visit, his grandmother rushed him to the health center. He was diagnosed with malaria.
The Imagine No Malaria program had trained the staff at the health center in integrated management of childhood illnesses so they will not miss any opportunity in diagnosing a case of childhood illness, since they operate in rural areas.
Using the knowledge gained from the training, they assessed Francis thoroughly and noted that he had both severe malaria and severe anemia. His hemoglobin level was 5 grams per deciliter. The average for teenagers is 13 g/dl.
Without the capacity to transfuse blood, the health center decided immediately to transfer Francis to the district hospital. The grandmother had no money for the transfer. Fortunately, the INM project team was on a monitoring visit to the facility, so they advanced some funds to cover the transfer, a transfusion and further tests at the district hospital.
Francis was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the district hospital, and upon discharge, the health center team invited the boy’s father and grandmother to learn about the condition and how to care for Francis.
Francis was saved because the Methodist Health Center responded to his needs, despite the family’s economic condition. The INM program equipped the staff with the capacity to respond appropriately. Thanks to the training, the staff could immediately identify complicated malaria, provide initial care with INM tests and medication available at the center and link to further care because of the emergency transportation furnished through INM funds. Imagine No Malaria ensures comprehensive care.
*Enoch Osafo is the director of the Health and Sanitation Directorate of The Methodist Church in Ghana.