Malaria is one of the biggest killers in Tanzania, claiming 125,000 lives each year, most of whom are children. Yet the disease is preventable and curable, and Saloum is just one of many Community Health Workers AMREF has trained to educate rural communities.
Mtwara, a rural district in southern Tanzania, is an area greatly affected by malaria. As one of the poorest districts, it has some of the worst health statistics, with one in four children dying before reaching their fifth birthday.
In March 2007, AMREF launched the Mtwara Community Based Health Care Project to strengthen health systems there, specially focusing on malaria prevention and control.
In each of the 118 participating villages, 10 community health workers were selected by the villagers themselves. Village leaders first shortlisted the candidates, then the chosen 10 were decided by way of a written test and general vote.
Saloum was one of those selected in his home village of Nangure – a small community with one main road, scattered houses and lush vegetation. Saloum, 30, a farmer and father of two, is now also a fully trained community health worker.
Saloum first heard of AMREF when he sought treatment for his son who was ill with malaria. As Saloum described it, before the AMREF project began, all he knew about malaria was that it was ‘dangerous and that many people who catch malaria die’.
Inspired to ‘fight in the war against malaria’, Saloum now teaches his community about the disease. On a bicycle provided by AMREF, he cycles from house to house educating and helping others, even during the rainy season when most roads would become washed out. The response to AMREF's efforts have been so positive that people seek out Saloum and are visiting him at his home for advice and information on malaria.
Saloum feels secure in the knowledge that AMREF is continuing to provide support and fulfill its promises; “From the project in our village I can see that AMREF is different”. The most tangible proof of success is that the number of malaria deaths in the village is decreasing. Saloum, justifiably, feels positive about the future.