Malaria care at the household level – The Lutheran malaria program in Uganda

Posted on July 21, 2015 by Ashley Debilzen
Ben Brown

Stella VHT for web

Stella is a VHT—a trained volunteer working with the Lutheran malaria program in Uganda. She brings malaria education, resources, testing and treatment to the households under her care, through community events, health talks and household visits. “When someone in this community gets sick, the family knows to come to me for testing as soon as possible,” Stella says. “The community is happy to have a VHT come around.  They see that the Lutheran program has not come to play, but to work!”

The conversation below offers us a snapshot of what a one of Stella’s household malaria visits looks like.  A woman has brought her young daughter to Stella because the child has a fever.

“When someone comes to me, I first ask their name,” Stella says.  “I look in my book to find their record. I give the visitor a seat, greet them, and ask what the problem is.”

The following conversation ensues:
“What is the name of the child?”
– Her name is Agiti.
“How long has she been sick?”
– About 24 hours.
“How old is she?”
– She is 8 months old.
“Has the child been sleeping under a mosquito net?”
– Yes, every night.

Stella with baby for web

Stella marks all of this information in her record book. She puts on gloves, reminding the mother to come to her within 24 hours of the child showing symptoms.  Stella explains that she is not selling anything, but that these testing services are free because of the Lutheran World Federation malaria program. She asks the woman to tell her neighbors to come and receive testing services for free when they are sick, also.

Stella uses an alcohol wipe to sterilize Agiti’s finger for the finger prick that is a part of the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) that she uses to diagnose malaria. Stella checks the expiration date on the test, and labels the RDT with the child’s name for accuracy. She pricks the child’s finger and puts one drop of blood on the RDT.  She uses a small piece of gauze to stop the bleeding. Now they await the results for 15 minutes.  Stella uses that time to talk further with the child’s mother.

Stella Coartem for web

If the parent says the child has been experiencing an unusually very high fever, Stella refers them to the Health Center.  If the case of malaria is severe, involving convulsions or other severe symptoms, Stella gives first aid and refers to the health center immediately. If the RDT returns a positive result for malaria, Stella is able to treat the case immediately with a medication called Coartem, without clinic referral.  “This is knowledge that I received from LWF,” Stella say. “LWF has blessed this community!”

“I am so thankful to the ELCA and to the Lutheran World Federation [which implements the Lutheran malaria program in Uganda],” says Stella. “I have learned so many things about malaria during our trainings.  And with the malaria education and treatment that I provide, the situation in this village is improving.”