More than 90% of the Tanzanian population is at risk of malarial infection – a disease that is responsible for one third of child deaths, and for up to one fifth of deaths among pregnant women.
For those living in the country’s most rural communities a lack basic health care, and the health education that comes with it, means that malaria outbreaks are commonplace.
Dr Amos Nyirenda understands the impact of the disease far too well. After 12 years working as a doctor, diagnosing and treating patients, he has seen more than his share of malaria cases. But he has also seen the impact a strong public health service can have in preventing and controlling the disease.
Here something as simple as a treated bed net, or education around symptoms and treatment options, can quite literally save lives.
‘After working for almost 12 years as a doctor in clinical settings treating patients, I wanted to help prevent some of the devastating diseases that I had spent my career trying to treat’, he explains.
Today Dr Amos works as the Programme Manager with Amref Health Africa’s Clinical Diagnostics Programme. Based in Tanzania our team here are working to educate communities on malaria prevention – this is done by training local health workers and supporting the delivery of outreach work and village health campaigns. Our teams uses everything from billboards to wall murals and drama groups to help deliver these important public health messages.
Since I started working for Amref I have seen positive changes in Tanzania in the fight against malaria. The management of malaria has improved due to health workers receiving the right training. The disease is being diagnosed faster through the use of rapid diagnostic tests, more people are sleeping under mosquito nets and sanitation has improved resulting in fewer breeding sites for mosquitoes.’
But Dr Amos’ work isn’t done, as his work with the Amref Health Africa team strengthens his conviction in the role of public health are – and of public health systems – in meeting the needs of communities across Tanzania, no matter how remote.
‘Working on the ground to combat malaria has given me a better understanding of the real health needs of rural Tanzanians. I now look at those living in remote areas as very special people who deserve to be a high priority in any health planning’.