“Malaria is the number one reason for people to come to this clinic,” reports Maria Bazizane, who serves as lab technician and microscopist at the government health center in Mwiruzi, Burundi. “I do a lot of malaria tests in this clinic.”
Maria explains the process of malaria testing: “When someone comes in with symptoms of malaria, we always test them before giving treatment. I do the testing using a blood smear and I analyze it under the microscope. We also have a Paracheck blood analysis machine in this clinic. If the patient tests positive, we give them medicine. We use ACTs [artemisinin-based combination therapies, the first-line therapy for malaria treatment].”
“Pregnant women and children under 5 receive treatment for free,” Maria says. (Government subsidies cover these costs.) “Others have to pay,” Maria continues. “Those who have insurance pay about USD $3, those without insurance pay USD $5-6. Not very many people have insurance.” The cost for malaria medication is relatively low here, but in an impoverished area, even these small fees, potentially repeated several times per year for each family member, can be very difficult for some families.
“The number of deaths from malaria depends on the season,” says Maria, “and it depends on how long the patient waited to come in. There are more deaths in the rainy season. People who wait longer to come in are more likely to die.” That’s why the Lutheran malaria program in Burundi (implemented by Lutheran World Federation, or LWF) emphasizes the message that anyone showing symptoms of malaria should visit a clinic within 24 hours.
LWF-Burundi has a history of partnership with Maria’s clinic. LWF helped to sponsor a rebuilding project at the clinic recently, and is partnering with the government in the construction of a new maternity ward.
Maria is optimistic about the future. “I have hope that the LWF malaria program will reduce number of cases of malaria here,” she says with confidence.