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Leadership interview: with Batuke Walusiku

Deputy Chief of Party - Sustainability Through Economic Strengthening Prevention and Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Youth and other Vulnerable Populations Programme (STEPS OVC), World Vision Zambia

Batuke WalusikuQ: There are many different actors in country-level malaria programmes. What is the particular niche or added value of NGOs?

Once governments have put in place policy and legislation regarding a certain issue, in this case health and malaria, then plans must be put in place. The implementation of these plans involves NGOs. On the other hand, where communities or individuals have identified issues that are contributing to inequity, it is the role of NGOs to advocate for policy and legislation enactment or change.

Public health is the concern of all sectors of society, so NGOs have a part to play, as does the private sector. NGOs fill in gaps and complement what is being done by government. This allows interventions to have a greater impact, and makes them more cost effective and efficient.

Q: In Zambia, World Vision has combined HIV and malaria initiatives. What motivated this decision and what was involved in the program?

World Vision has been working towards transformational development of communities for many years. This has included malaria prevention activities, recognizing the impact that malaria has on the wellbeing of communities, households and individuals.

With the initiation of HIV programming through the USAID-funded RAPIDS (Reaching HIV and AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) programme, the need to heighten the malaria response became more apparent. Volunteer caregivers noticed that home-based care clients would keep getting malaria and that children would be sick and not go to school. Through a partnership with the Global Business Coalition, the US President's Malaria Initiative and USAID, we began distributing insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to HIV-affected households.

The distribution of ITNs always goes alongside sensitization of community volunteers so that they roll out the education messages to the households as the nets are distributed. This is so that people know how to identify the symptoms and signs of malaria, seek early diagnosis and treatment and how to prevent themselves from contracting malaria.

Q: What were the main achievements of the programme? What have you learned from this initiative?

Through a partnership with the Global Business Coalition, the US President's Malaria Initiative and USAID, 485,000 ITNs were distributed in 2006 through a process that targeted HIV-affected households. Another 300,000 ITNs were distributed in 2009 through a partnership with the Against Malaria Foundation. We, as STEPS OVC (Sustainability Through Economic Strengthening Prevention and Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, Youth and other Vulnerable Populations, a USAID-funded programme), are now distributing 1 million ITNs as part of a partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID) and USAID. The nets are being distributed through USAID in the Luapula Province and Chadiza.

The willingness of various organizations to be a part of the Roll Back Malaria partnership in Zambia and to come together to fight malaria has been crucial. It is important to recognize the role of the community structures, volunteers, traditional and civic leaders and everyone who plays a role in malaria; all of these initiatives involve several different partners. For instance, STEPS OVC is a World Vision-led consortium of seven partners, including Africare, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Expanded Church Response, The Salvation Army, Futures Group and volunteers.

Q: What are the main challenges faced by NGOs working in malaria, or in health generally?

An ongoing challenge is mobilizing resources and maintaining the prioritization of funding for health promotion and malaria elimination at national budget levels, as well as at the international level. We also need to continue to raise awareness levels of the need for malaria prevention and early diagnosis and treatment, including through information, education and communication (IEC) materials designed for specific contexts.

Q: Zambia has made major progress against malaria, particularly in the last five years. What have been the key factors in this success?

The Government of Zambia has made the fight against malaria a priority and has shared this message with all stakeholders. The fact that all sectors have gotten involved in malaria initiatives has made a huge difference.

Q: What's next for World Vision Zambia's malaria work?

We will finish this current distribution of ITNs and work with National Malaria Control Centre to ensure continued monitoring of the use of distributed nets. We will distribute more nets when we have them, and keep doing more of what we now know how to do well.