Please describe your experience leading malaria and health systems strengthening programs in Guinea.
I have always been interested in health since I was a child when my father, a doctor, told me how he took care of his patients and shared the joys and difficulties of being a doctor in Guinea. I decided to be a doctor to be like him. After my medical studies, I worked at the main national hospital in Conakry and every day I saw many patients coming to the hospital late and dying because there was nothing left to do for them. I was very frustrated that these people could have been saved if they had come a little earlier or if they had used preventive means to avoid these diseases. It was this that prompted me to devote myself to improving health at the grassroots level by strengthening the underlying health system.
I have been working on health systems strengthening projects in Guinea since 2004 and joined RTI in 2007 to manage the health component of Faisons Ensemble, a multi-sectoral governance project funded by USAID. In 2011, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) expanded its support to Guinea and used Faisons Ensemble as the main mechanism to support the national malaria control program (NMCP) prior to the creation of a bilateral malaria project. Then in 2013, RTI was awarded StopPalu, the first bilateral malaria project in Guinea and the predecessor project to StopPalu+. I have served as Chief of Party for both projects and am proud to note that many of our StopPalu+ staff started with us under Faisons Ensemble. Through StopPalu and StopPalu+ over the past seven years, we have supported the Ministry of Health (MoH) and NMCP to increase access to malaria prevention and treatment, strengthen the capacity of health providers and community health workers to prevent and manage malaria cases, and improve data quality and monitoring, evaluation, research and coordination.
What progress have you seen since you began this work?
Through StopPalu and StopPalu+ we have worked in 14 of Guinea’s 38 districts and have built strong reputations in these communities that have allowed us to achieve significant progress in malaria control over the last decade. In collaboration with the MoH and NMCP, we have distributed more than 9.3 million long lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) through three mass campaigns; trained and supervised more than 2,000 community health workers on malaria diagnosis and treatment; organized and supported three annual seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns, providing essential antimalarial medicines each time to more than 300,000 children under five across seven districts; and drastically improved the completeness of malaria data from 30% in 2013 to 100% in 2020. The ability to report and analyze quality and accurate malaria data has been critical to improving the sustainability and success of malaria interventions in Guinea. We have also improved access to malaria diagnostics and treatments - in FY 2020, we were able to provide diagnostic tests to 98% of suspected malaria cases and antimalarial treatments to 97% of positive cases in districts supported by StopPalu+.
We have strengthened the involvement and commitment of local authorities, traditional and religious leaders, artists, youth and women associations and communities in the fight against malaria, including training more than 1,000 religious leaders on malaria control messages and organizing a peer education program for malaria control in schools. In addition, in partnership with the NMCP, we established technical working groups that facilitate the planning, execution and coordination of malaria control activities across the country and created an insectarium and a molecular biology laboratory at the University of Conakry to conduct entomological surveillance. We also support annual studies in order to detect possible resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
Thanks to all of this important work and a strong commitment from the MoH and local stakeholders, we have seen the national malaria prevalence decrease from 44% in 2013 to 15% in 2016.