Barffour, Maxwell

Public Health

PhD

Zambia

Zambia- Malaria Transmission and the Impact of Control Efforts in Southern Africa (Nchelenge District)

The student will assist with a new initiative to accelerate malaria control in Southern Africa through an NIH-funded International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research. Our goal is to make substantial contributions to regional malaria control in Zambia and Zimbabwe through state-of-the-art research on malaria epidemiology, vector biology and the genetics of the malaria parasite in three different epidemiological settings, representing regions of effective malaria control (Choma District, Zambia), ineffective malaria control (Nchelenge District, Zambia) and resurgent malaria (Mutasa District, Zimbabwe).

Malaria Transmission and the Impact of Control Efforts in Southern Africa (Nchelenge District) in Zambia

PERSONAL NARRATIVE, Maxwell A. Barffour MPH, PhD Candidate.

Thanks to GHEFP Grant, I made my first trip to Zambia, a country I have long admired. The entire trip -from planning, through immigration, to visitation of village household- was an exciting adventure. I spent a week of my scheduled 2-month trip in Macha to understand ongoing malaria control activities performed by Hopkins researchers and staff at the Malaria Institute at Macha (MIAM). For the rest of my stay in Zambia, I was based in Nchelenge, a remote community in the Luapula district.  People in Nchelenge predominantly live in mud, round houses with a cone-shaped roof made of dried grass. At the national level, and among the global health community, the district of Nchelenge is best known for t its high burden of poverty, illiteracy, maternal and infant mortality, infectious disease and malnutrition.

My visit to Nchelenge really shaped my view of malnutrition and poverty- they are real!  Over 60% of children under-five years are visibly stunted and about every 2 in 3 children I met walked barefooted.  Interestingly, the people of Nchelenge are a very happy people (and so was I). The few educated villagers appear to appreciate the burden of malaria, HIV/ AIDS and malnutrition in the district. Perhaps more importantly, the people are very welcoming to the idea of conducting scientific research on health issues that impact them on daily basis.

From a public health researcher’s perspective, Nchelenge is the place to kill several birds with one stone.  Prevalent in the district are multiple concurrent needs that may respond to proven and available intervention.  There are opportunities to control malaria and malnutrition at the same time through the delivery of intervention including insecticide treated bed nets and community health education. I spent an enormous amount of time reviewing health data that the district office, discussing the nature of data collection and storage, as well as the utility of available and the data needs to inform policy and research in the district.

While in Nchelenge, I made time to engage myself in other non-research activities including going for church on Sundays (and Saturdays),  district music camps, visiting schools and  talking to school children and playing soccer. I had the honor of talking to school children on the befits of education. Overall, this is the part of my trip I am most proud of. Through my trip, I was able to raise funds to reinstate an otherwise school drop.  Very soon, a group that includes me will launch an NGO- the Partnership for Child Education and Development in Africa (PACED. AFRICA), whose primary objective includes promoting education of girls and orphans in low income regions in Africa. I am happy to say that the group has decided to make Nchelenge one of its focal sites, based on my recommendations following the trip.  We are already engaged in ongoing discussions to partner with local schools on this mission. I am indeed excited the opportunity to do research while attending to other real life needs of the study community.

Lake Mweru is a conspicuous bright spot in the district. The lake lines the entire length of the district along the Zambia-Congo Border. The lake is a source of fish for the village—both for food and income. People in Nchelenge are proud of their fish and are always happy to talk about the variety of quality fishes they have. Haven lived there for over 6 weeks, I am proud to say I am a witness! I was treated to quality fish on request!

I would encourage my fellow students to take advantage of this rare opportunity to impact lives of the most vulnerable. I have no regrets about my experience, only a heightened sense of obligation to the women and children of Nchelenge.  I would like to say thank you to the Center for Global Health and my mentor, Dr. William Moss for making this a worthy trip. In Bemba, we say ‘Nataasha’.

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August 2022

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