Madeleine, 35, is a mother, saleswoman and secretary of the community organisation in Moupemou village, Atacora, Benin. Although she is not a qualified health worker or a doctor, in Moupemou she is regarded by the community as the official malaria doctor, and everyone in the village knows that if someone gets malaria, they must quickly go to Madeleine’s home to receive treatment.
Madeleine received training in malaria prevention from Plan International Benin as part of the Palu-Alafia Project, which aims to improve community malaria care for children under five in 14 health zones in Benin. The Palu-Alafia Project is coordinated by Catholic Relief Service (CRS) and implemented by Plan International Benin in nine municipalities in the region of Atacora, in the north of Benin.
Once trained, community volunteers such as Madeleine are responsible for testing children for malaria, treating mild cases, referring serious cases to health centres and raising awareness amongst members of the community.
Madeleine tests several children a day and dispenses medicine for mild cases of malaria.
Madeleine explains: "After the rapid malaria test, it takes approximately 15 minutes to get the result. When a single line appears on the strip, this means that the child is not suffering from malaria and their fever must be linked to another disease.When two lines appear, the test is positive. The child is suffering from malaria and can be treated in the community if it is not a complicated case.”
Beyond immediate care, the community volunteers visit the child once or twice within three days after the treatment starts in order to ensure that the parents are following instructions, but also to check the child's health. Volunteers also conduct community education sessions and home visits to prevent the spread of malaria. A friendly box with images serves as a teaching tool, to illustrate each case and strengthen knowledge around the disease with the communities.
Education sessions to raise awareness are held twice a month in a public place and allow the monitoring of communities on prevention methods. In addition, the Palu-Alafia project distributes insecticide-treated mosquito nets and provides training on their effective use in households.
"I'm really happy to be part of the Palu-Alafia Project,” says Madeleine. “I’ve been trained as community organisation member and the project has provided us with medicines to treat people suffering from malaria. Through this project, parents no longer have to travel for miles to take their sick children to hospital and they receive medicine free of charge.”
Nearly 700,000 children under five are successfully treated each year in Benin thanks to the community volunteers and medicine distributed by the Palu-Alafia Project.