On the Islands of Zanzibar lurks a deadly predator. It multiplies in puddles, squeezes through holes of bed nets, and carries a deadly disease that kills more than a 1,000 children each day, most of them located in sub-Saharan Africa.
…But one mom armed with a bike, a tablet and a mobile phone is taking on this potentially deadly problem. Habiba Suleiman Sefu, an environmental science graduate, works as a malaria surveillance officer in the Skakani village of southwest Zanzibar, tracking, testing and treating people with this disease to help stop the spread of it.
In a Muslim country where women are rarely in public without a male escort, this mom, with the support of her husband, is helping authorities identify outbreaks and respond early to infections. The U.S Malaria Initiative has supplied her with the tools to track and evaluate cases in her area. Habiba moves around the countryside in her USAID-provided motorcycle providing medicine, diagnostic equipment and various supplies to help villagers, some affected with malaria. Education is a key factor to keep the families safe from infection. “I educate people on the importance of keeping their environment free of standing water because mosquitoes multiply in a wet environment,” Habiba says.“I also tell them that it is important to go immediately to the hospital to test for malaria if they feel any symptoms, and to use medication immediately before it spreads to the whole family.”Early detection and management has decease the prevalence of malaria in her area to 1 percent.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, located on the eastern side of Africa. Referred to as one of the “Spice Islands”, due to the abundance of spice exports, the area has been riddled with political turmoil with about half of the population living under the poverty line, 12% of the children living with acute malnutrition and a life expectancy of 57 years.
Read more about her story: Zanzibar’s Malaria Hunter – USAID Stories