“Malaria has been and remains the main cause of consultations in this facility. We receive many patients, some coming from as far as 8 kilometres from here. Before the Red Cross came in, testing for malaria was a tedious exercise and frustrating for patients who had to wait long hours before being served,” says Dr Scholastic Ouba-Mossorro from his office at the Potevu health centre in the capital of the Central African Republic.

Through a grant from the Global Fund of 15 million Euros, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been distributing equipment to help fight the very preventable disease of malaria, the number one killer in the country, even in the face of more than one year of conflict.

The equipment includes rapid malaria testing kits and treatment for positive cases.

“Before, a patient had to wait up to 13 hours before his or her malaria status would be confirmed, but now it takes five minutes or less. The drugs are also readily available and free which makes our work easier. The ability to offer immediate solutions for malaria-infected patients gives us a lot of satisfaction,” says Dr Ouba-Mossorro, adding that with the services being free, many people who would have otherwise suffered silently are now able to get assistance.

Through the grant, mobile phones are also being distributed to aid in the collection of malaria data.

“It is easier and faster. We do not need to wait days before we physically go to deliver the data. We are now able to deliver our data on time, even in the middle of conflict, when movement becomes difficult due to insecurity,” he adds.

IFRC has a network of about 70 people (malaria focal points and health facility staff) trained in mobile phone reporting. The reporting system is designed to allow for instant feedback from the monitoring and evaluation team (via SMS or email) on the quality of data collected. People in the regions can equally share their difficulties instantly with the team using the same channels. Data that used to take six months or so to travel from outside of Bangui to the reporting team now only takes seconds.

To date, 20 malaria focal points outside the capital Bangui have been trained on this reporting method and plans are in place to have at least one trained focal point in each of the 74 sub prefectures of the country before the end of March. When completed, it will be possible to get malaria, and even HIV or tuberculosis data from each sub prefecture every month.

Incentives are provided to focal points who use their mobile phones to report data on time, and it’s paying off. Reporting has improved tremendously since the training of the first group of mobile data collectors took place. In February 2014, less than five reports were received; by the end of 2014, 120 reports per month were being received.

Via Red Cross Press