New Rotary Foundation grant supports scaling proven malaria program in Zambia

Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Federal Way, Washington, USA, the program brings together local Rotary members and partner organizations who share a goal to combat malaria in Zambia. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and World Vision USA will co-fund the program with $2 million each, bringing total funding to $6 million.

“This project complements and builds upon the leadership of the government of Zambia in working to eliminate malaria from the country,” says Philip Welkhoff, director of the Malaria Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are thrilled to expand on our longstanding partnerships with Rotary and World Vision to advance progress in hard-to-reach communities and to realize the goal of ending malaria for good.”

To diagnose and treat community members, health workers will be supplied with rapid diagnostic test kits, anti-malaria medicine, lancets for finger pricks, and educational materials. They’ll also receive bicycles and mobile phones, allowing them to reach communities and regularly report cases and share malaria data within the national health system. Making sure local and national information is integrated and providing ongoing support for the community health worker network are essential to the program’s goal of strengthening provincial health services for long-term success fighting malaria.

By empowering these volunteers, who are selected by their fellow community members, the project connects people in areas with limited access to health care with trusted members of their community, says Bill Feldt, a member of the Federal Way club.

This proven health care delivery model is effective and financially sustainable and will bring lasting protection by reducing and eliminating this disease at the local level.

— Bill Feldt, member of the Rotary Club of Federal Way

“This proven health care delivery model is effective and financially sustainable and will bring lasting protection by reducing and eliminating this disease at the local level,” says Feldt, who has been involved in Rotary’s efforts to control malaria in sub-Saharan Africa for more than 10 years.

John Hasse, World Vision’s national director in Zambia, says it’s leveraging the strength of local community health workers that’s most appealing about the program.

“We’ve learned from our experience the importance of bringing healthcare closer to those who need it,” says Hasse.

Hasse adds, “Such an effective, proven and local strategy is exactly what is needed to reduce the dreaded disease of malaria and move us closer to malaria elimination in Zambia.”

With COVID-19 still a health threat around the world, the program’s leaders are prepared to ensure a safe environment for health workers and community members. Training of community health workers will follow COVID-19 protocols, including social distancing. Training class sizes will be limited according to guidelines from the World Health Organization and Zambian government. Personal protective equipment will also be provided. And when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in Zambia, community health workers will be well-positioned to mobilize communities to receive the vaccine.

Scaling proven methods

Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia is the first recipient of the Foundation’s Programs of Scale grant. Programs of Scale will award $2 million annually to expand a well-developed service program that is led by a Rotary club or district and has demonstrated success in effecting change. The funding enables evidence-based programs that align with one of Rotary’s areas of focus to scale over three to five years to help larger populations of people and foster policy development to increase sustainability. Programs of Scale will expand Rotary members’ ability to implement large-scale, high-quality programs with experienced partners — and share their program knowledge and results with other Rotary clubs.

“Rotary’s Programs of Scale is encouraging our members to think big and to work with other organizations to find comprehensive solutions to large-scale issues,” Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair K.R. Ravindran says. “The power of Rotary is greatly magnified when we partner with like-minded organizations.”