Malaria is a life-threatening disease - but a preventable, treatable one. For pregnant women it presents an even greater risk; their low immunity increases the chance of becoming infected.
In Zambia, health volunteers like Nakeya Muhau are trained and supported by Christian Aid partner Zambian Anglican Church.
They take special care of pregnant women living in remote, malaria-prone areas like Simulumbe.
‘My main concern is with pregnant women,’ says Nakeya, ‘who I encourage to go to the hospital for their medication. And I carry out Rapid Diagnostic Tests on them.’
In the UK we rarely see pregnancy as a life-threatening condition. Deaths during or shortly after pregnancy are, thankfully, relatively rare here.
Not so in developing countries, where women are 36 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause.
Globally, 11% of these maternal deaths are related to malaria.
In one routine house visit Nakeya found pregnant 20-year-old Musiyebo was very sick. She identified malaria as the problem and got someone to take Musiyebo to the hospital for the treatment she needed.
‘If it wasn’t for [Nakeya], the malaria control agent, my baby and I would have died,’ says Musiyebo.
‘I was four months pregnant... I was feverish and I felt body pains all over me. I felt I was going to die.’
Nets, rapid tests and anti-malaria drugs
In these areas, these amazing health volunteers use simple tools to keep pregnant women safe from malaria.
They give out mosquito nets and make sure people can use them properly.
They can carry out instant malaria tests any time pregnant women are feeling poorly, so they can receive treatment quickly and don't have to bother going to the hospital unless it actually turns out to be malaria.
They also make sure the women are aware of anti-malaria drugs they can get at the hospital to provide even better protection.
Musiyebo explains: ‘People are now eager to follow Nakeya’s instructions because of my experience.’
Here in rural Zambia, it is thanks to wonderful women like Nakeya that pregnant women are keeping themselves and their babies safe from the dangers of malaria.
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