Bagamoyo District Hospital
On a recent trip to Tanzania with Melinda, we spent time focused on the foundation's efforts to reduce malaria. We were particularly interested in learning about the progress of research into a malaria vaccine.
These children were waiting to see a doctor at the Bagamoyo District Hospital in Tanzania. They are among several thousand children participating in field trials of the vaccine, known as RTS,S. Just this week, interim results from the clinical trials were reported, and they prove that it’s possible to create a vaccine that’s effective against malaria. It was exciting to visit this clinic because it is so well run, they're offering lots of good health services, and people are coming from far away to participate in the vaccine trial.
Meeting with Health Officials
We met with health officials from the Bagamoyo District Hospital and the Ifakara Health Institute. There were a lot of visiting scientists from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, which has a close relationship with the IHI. We saw scientists who are working on ways of repelling mosquitoes so people don’t just have to rely on bed nets, which are only partly successful protection against malaria. It's great that the foundation’s support is helping with the vaccine, and that it is also helping train young scientists and building up a research infrastructure, which will have a lot of long-term benefits.
Ifakara Health Institute
Scientists at the Ifakara Health Institute were great at educating us about their work, including techniques for capturing mosquitos to help prevent malaria, what species of mosquito they were focused on, how they get the vaccine out into the field, and how they saw if the vaccine worked.
Meeting with Hospital Staff
We also met with staff at the local hospital to discuss progress treating and preventing malaria.
Mapinga Village Dispensary
We visited the Mapinga Village Dispensary, which is an example of how healthcare is delivered in Africa. These dispensaries are the first place people go for care in or near their villages. We saw how the dispensaries keep their vaccines, and we talked to people like Neema Malachi Najwale, the nurse in charge of the Mapinga Dispensary, about how they get mothers to come in for the vaccines. We also talked about how they can now use cell phones to send regular status reports on their inventory.
Meeting with Parents
We talked with some of the parents of children participating in the vaccine trials. Although Tanzania is quite poor and hasn't developed a very extensive infrastructure of roads and electricity, in the health area they've done pretty well. They have good vaccine coverage and are on track to meet a lot of the Millennium Development Goals. It’s a great example of the progress taking place in Africa.
At the Mapinga Village Dispensary, we talked with the head nurse about a number of diseases they have to deal with besides malaria. But by far the biggest killer of children and adults in that area of Tanzania is malaria. So the enthusiasm among health officials for the new malaria work there is very high. I’m an optimist when it comes to defeating malaria. There is good progress with the vaccine, drugs to prevent and treat malaria, and other preventive measures. Eradicating malaria won’t happen overnight, but it’s a moral and economic imperative for Africa, and for the entire world.