Jacob is on the front line of the fight against malaria in Tanzania. He has worked for Tanzania Communication and Development Center (TCDC) since 2013 and, as field operations manager, spends his time traveling the country and seeing first-hand how their community-led approach to malaria education and prevention is seeing the number of malaria cases and deaths decline.
TCDC recruit and train Community Change Agents (CCAs) - volunteer health workers who teach families about malaria and how to protect themselves from the disease. They go into their own communities to talk to women’s groups, schools, teachers, tailors, fisherman - as many people as possible - to help them understand how to stay safe and healthy. It’s all about encouraging behaviour changes – getting people to change a lifetime of habits and realise the importance of being tested for malaria before treatment, taking the right treatment and the right time, sleeping under bed nets and keeping a clean home free from stagnant water.
The incredible work of the CCAs, who do their life-saving work for free - has been a huge success and already Jacob reports that malaria cases in Kigoma have dropped from 38.1% prevalence to 24% prevalence because of the people power and passion they harness.
He says: “For the past two years, since the start of the project in Tanzania, particularly in Kigoma we have seen so many changes. We have seen people going to the medical facility, redeeming and asking for services, people are going for testing.
“The main reason for the decrease of malaria is because of the work which is done by the community health workers who are funded by Comic Relief and the GSK partnership. They are putting a lot of work at the community level to educate people to start changing their behaviours.”
Jacob’s motivation comes from wanting to see people change their lives for the better and lead healthy lives - he knows that this will take continued collaboration but is confident that things are going to keep on improving.
So far, TCDC has reached 300,000 people across 1,000 villages in Geita and Kigoma, western Tanzania, through their Community Change Agents over the past two years, thanks to funding from Comic Relief and GSK. Fewer people are getting malaria and the communities are the winning the fight. There is still a long way to go as globally a child still dies from the disease every two minutes, but progress is being made, and it’s being driven by determined people like Jacob.