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Liliane’s Tireless Fight Against Malaria

By Eric Tchinda and Cole Bingham

Olivia Mboli, a single mom of five children, works on a palm oil plantation in west Cameroon, earning $32 to $42 per month.

“It’s difficult to meet my children’s needs,” she says, particularly when they get sick.

Three years ago, Olivia was pregnant with twins when a tree fell on her husband and killed him as he walked to work. Today, twins Norbert and Albert are just small enough to still be held, and Princess — Olivia’s only daughter — is 9 years old. Olivia also has two older sons. Keeping the five of them on a path to thrive and succeed is a constant struggle for Olivia. But community health worker Liliane Mbom is her strong ally, helping Olivia and her family to stay healthy and malaria-free.

In Cameroon, malaria accounts for 43 percent of deaths and more than half of illnesses of children under age 5. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable; malaria can have significant health consequences for both the expectant mother and her unborn child. Community health workers like Liliane serve as the first line of defense against malaria in so many areas of the country.

Liliane Mbom is a teacher by training, but when the chief officer at the local health center visited her village looking for help educating residents about malaria prevention and providing basic care, she was nominated by her peers.

“The people designated me. I initially refused…but they convinced me and I accepted,” Liliane says.

Liliane’s work — from community education to home visits — has a dramatic impact on families like Olivia’s.

“I book an appointment beforehand with the head of the family and I go to [the] house on the designated date. We discuss malaria prevention, what to do when a child or an adult has a fever, and we talk about the right way to use a mosquito net,” Liliane says, describing a typical home visit.

“Mrs. Liliane helps my children and me a lot in health matters,” says Olivia. “When my children fall ill, I go to see her first. She tests them and if it’s malaria, she treats them and my burden is immensely lightened.”

Through a Jhpiego-led initiative funded by ExxonMobil in April 2014, Liliane learned how to diagnose malaria using rapid diagnostic tests. She learned how to manage cases of uncomplicated malaria with common malaria medicines — artemisinin-based combination therapy — and when to refer severe cases to health facilities. Through educational talks and home visits, Liliane is raising public awareness of malaria.

She is a touchpoint for families on the best practices to prevent malaria and the first point of care for many palm oil workers.

For Olivia and her children, Liliane is a key component of a healthy, malaria-free life. This World Malaria Day, we celebrate Liliane and the thousands of community health workers like her who fight tirelessly for a malaria-free future!

Photography by Karen Kasmauski.

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