A young mother carried her feverish son down muddy tracks for over 48 hours to get diagnosis and treatment for malaria in rural East New Britain Province in PNG.
When the little boy became ill with a fever, the woman walked three hours with him from her village to the nearest aid post, a remote area health outpost offering basic medicine and care.
Burnet’s Deputy Program Director, Behaviours and Health Risks, Ms Lisa Davidson recounted the all-too familiar story of mothers trying to find help for their sick child in rural and often remote areas of PNG.
“When she got there it was already closed for the night, so she and her child slept outside the local church,” Ms Davidson said.
“The next morning she got up early and queued to see the village health volunteer. When her child was eventually seen he was diagnosed with a fever, but the aid post had no way to test for malaria so she was told to go to the local health facility.”
With no transport, the woman once again walked carrying her sick child, this time two hours along a muddy road, arriving at the health facility too late to be seen and having to camp out for another night.
By the next morning her child was so sick he was seen immediately. He was diagnosed with Plasmodium falciparum, a type of malaria, but the clinic did not have any malaria medication so the mother had to travel further to hospital.
A sick, untreated child’s condition worsens
“By the time she arrived at the hospital her son had been sick with a fever for more than 48 hours and was now having convulsions,” Ms Davidson said.
“He had to be admitted and given intravenous drugs. Luckily he survived, but for many in East New Britain this is not the case.”
This story is a graphic illustration of the need for malaria testing and treatment in villages, and increased health care capacity, Ms Davidson said.
Making malaria testing and treatment available in villages could save lives.
A two-year Burnet program called Home-based Management of Malaria trained volunteers to test for and treat malaria in their villages, following a simple algorithm to take a history, test for fever and perform a rapid diagnostic test for malaria.
This ensured patients with malaria were diagnosed and treated quickly, while reducing severity and transmission. Over the 24 months of the program’s life, incidence and severity of malaria infection was dramatically reduced, providing a vivid illustration of the benefits of a community engagement model.
Ms Davidson will address the 1st Malaria World Congress in Melbourne next week, telling delegates that without community engagement, support and empowerment, malaria will not be eliminated.
Burnet is proudly supporting the 1st Malaria World Congress in Melbourne from 1-5 July featuring experts across research, policy, public health, international development and advocacy focused on eliminating malaria.