By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

In Mangodara, a department located 500 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, local communities are facing various challenges. It is a malaria-prone area and access to health care facilities is difficult. People also do not have access to clean water. Women wash clothes in the same backwaters and streams they depend on for cooking and drinking, making adults and children sick.

“It hurt me to see many pregnant women losing their lives in the process of giving life, to see children die of malaria or suffering from diarrhoea because of dirty water,” explains Suzanne Pagbalem, who joined the Burkinabe Red Cross Society as a volunteer in 2014 when the National Society started to implement an integrated community health project in Mangodara.

Twice a week, Suzanne crisscrosses the winding streets of her village conducting informal talk sessions with the women, as well as home visits to discuss with couples the importance of antenatal care, vaccinations, family planning, good hygiene practices, sanitation and the use of safe water.

Fighting the good fight against malaria

The fight against malaria is a key component of the project. It includes both prevention activities and community care.

Suzanne, like 100 other volunteers of the Provincial Committee, has been trained to conduct the malaria treatment protocol as defined by the Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso. She is able to use the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) on patients. If the RDT is negative with warning signs, Suzanne refers her visitors to the nearest health centre.

If the RDT is positive, with no signs of severe malaria, Suzanne offers other forms of treatment.

After 18 months of implementation, the health district reported indicators that point to a decline in maternal and child mortality and morbidity in the 50 villages covered by the project.

“This project with volunteers acting at the community level has helped manage 4,000 cases of uncomplicated malaria. If these cases were to come to the health facilities, the workload would be too high,” says Boukary Bance, from the Mangodara health district. “Homecare management of malaria has helped prevent their evolution into severe cases, hence the reduction of mortality in children under five years. The drilling of boreholes has also significantly lowered water-related diseases.”

For Suzanne, the feeling of having helped her community against many diseases is the reward that she can draw from the project. “This is where I draw my energy,” she says proudly.

Implemented by the Burkinabe Red Cross Society with financial support from the Norwegian Red Cross, and technical support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the overarching goal of the project is to contribute to the decline in maternal and child mortality and morbidity in Mangodara. The project has also provided solar energy to four health centres, equipped eight villages with motorcycle ambulances to facilitate people’s access to health centres, and drilled four boreholes.