Reverend Kativa Tchitango lives in the far southeast corner of Angola, a three-day drive from the capital, Luanda. In his province of Cuando Cubango, there has typically been about one case of malaria diagnosed every year for every two citizens; Last year, there were 298,296 cases reported within his province. And though malaria affects people of all ages, 70% of those who die from malaria are children under age 5.
Because of its ubiquity, malaria has been regarded as an unquestioned inevitability. But it does not need to be that way: malaria is easily prevented, diagnosed, and treated. Over the past two years, there has been a rapid expansion in Cuando Cubango of the availability of free insecticide-treated mosquito nets (which protect those sleeping inside the nets) and indoor residual spraying (which kills mosquitoes that land on the walls of a treated house). Since malaria is only caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, using these tools dramatically reduces the risk of catching malaria. Pocket-sized rapid diagnostic tests have also become more widely available, and they give an accurate malaria diagnosis with just a drop of blood within minutes - and without requiring on electricity. Good treatment is also more widely available, which completely cures malaria in three days through just a few tablets. The Angolan Ministry of Health in partnership with Elimination 8 Secretariat has supported the expansion of these tools and services, with financial support from the Global Fund and the Gates Foundation.
However, in a culture where malaria has been ubiquitous, these tools are not automatically accepted by all. It takes time to get used to tucking in a net over the bed and under the mattress every night. It takes courage to allow sprayers into the house, with their menacing head-to-toe protective coverings. When a child has a fever, rushing to a health provider has not been the obvious first step, considering the journey has been far (especially when carrying a small child) and too often there is no help available once there. So faith leaders like Rev. Tchitango have had a key role in encouraging people to take advantage of these tools. They have a powerful voice in their own communities, and have led by example by taking advantage of these tools in their own household. Rev Tchitango is proud that he has not contracted malaria since 2017, when he started sleeping under a mosquito net. In addition to modeling healthy practices, faith leaders like Rev. Tchitango have mobilized and supported teams of lay volunteers to do door-to-door teaching and support with net hang-up.
Today we celebrate Rev. Tchitango and the other faith leaders who have recognized that their role as shepherd and pastor includes working for the physical health of those in their communities. We celebrate the hundreds of community malaria volunteers we work with in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, who daily serve as anti-malaria ambassadors, spreading the good news that malaria is preventable and treatable. They are saving lives in remote communities. On their behalf, Chris Flowers has accepted the Malaria No More UK Commonwealth Honours, which recognizes all those involved in the Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative for their community led response in areas that are particularly vulnerable to malaria yet often underserved by health services.