World Malaria Day: Cyclist Health Workers Frontlines Malaria Fight in Côte d’Ivoire

Thousands of community health workers in Cote d'Ivoire are cycling between remote villages, testing for malaria and providing early treatment, slashing cases by up to 70% through their pedal-powered efforts.

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Photo credit: Save the Children International

In the fight against malaria, innovative solutions are critical, especially in reaching remote communities with limited access to health services. Cote d’Ivoire is providing an inspiring example of how grassroots efforts can make a significant impact against this deadly disease.

As the world marks World Malaria Day on April 25, thousands of community health workers in Cote d’Ivoire are literally pedaling progress by cycling between rural villages armed with medical kits and a determination to get ahead of malaria. By diagnosing and treating cases early, especially among vulnerable children under five, they have reduced malaria incidents by up to 70% in some areas just this year.

Their approach is straightforward yet powerful. Workers like François Kouadio, armed with a bicycle, provide malaria testing and treatment at people’s doorsteps. When a child tests positive, they can be quickly treated with antimalarial drugs and fever reducers. No need to travel long distances or wait until the illness has potentially become life-threatening.

The community health workers aren’t just treating the sick – they are educating families on preventative measures like using mosquito nets, keeping homes clean, and covering water storage. Their presence reassures parents that help is close at hand if fever strikes. As Prisca from one village shared, “The community health workers are very kind…the children recover from their sickness. They do such a great job at bringing comfort.”

François’s impact is tangible. In the first three months of this year, he tested 31 children with fevers, with 24 testing positive for malaria and receiving treatment, marking a significant decline from previous years.

Malaria’s global toll remains staggering, with around half a million child deaths every year, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. The costs are not just personal tragedies but extend to economic and societal setbacks. Cote d’Ivoire itself accounts for 3% of malaria cases worldwide.

Turning the tide requires innovative strategies and last-mile solutions. While scientific advances in treatments and vaccines are crucial, so too are efforts to bridge the service delivery gap in high-burden areas. Community health workers play an indispensable role as trusted providers who understand local contexts.

Côte d’Ivoire, listed among the top 10 countries with the most malaria cases, has been relentless in its efforts to combat the disease. With a population of approximately 28 million, the country accounted for 3% of all global malaria cases in 2022, according to the WHO.

A team of around 8,300 community health workers, supported by organizations like Save the Children, has been instrumental in this fight. These dedicated individuals, equipped with bicycles, conduct blood tests, offer treatment, and provide vital care to pregnant women in rural villages.

Save the Children’s Malaria Project Director in Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Yssouf Ouattara, emphasized the importance of community-based interventions in combating malaria. Projects like these, he noted, play a crucial role in improving healthcare access and saving lives. Côte d’Ivoire aims to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by at least 75% by 2025.

Save the Children is a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world. Founded in the UK in 1919, it has grown to become the world’s leading independent organization for children, working in over 113 countries.

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