Beyond the Bite
A national reporting system to centralise malaria information in Sierra Leone
Malaria eradication will take a monumental combined effort. Civil society organisations in Sierra Leone are working intensively to control the disease and advocate for solutions that can halt the pandemic but many are under-resourced and working beyond capacity. While Sierra Leone has one of the highest burdens of malaria in the world, the infrastructure for gathering and sharing health information is poor and the majority of the population remains offline.
We are training and supporting a network of 40 community reporters across Sierra Leone to cover life with malaria. Using SMS, voicemail and chat-apps, they are reporting their community experiences and solutions directly into a bespoke version of our technical platform, Radius. This virtual dashboard is accessible to a broad consortium of national and international health organisations. The reporters are being supported by community mentors, who first trained with On Our Radar back in 2012 and gained reporting experience while covering the Ebola outbreak.
The digital gateway is a practical tool for centralising community stories, data and insight and turning them into a resource for shared action. With poor road infrastructure hindering mobility, it also connects communities that might be a few days journey from the capital city and ensures that their experiences are reflected in the national story.
Now is an important moment to encourage a conversation around malaria. In Sierra Leone, 40% of hospital visits are attributed to malaria, but it is so normalised that many rely on self-diagnosis and self-medication which can be dangerous. As an insight platform, Radius gives grantees a collaborative space to capture, share and react to emerging themes such as inclusion of private sector, barriers around referral, and community loss. Since the project began, one of the reporters has given birth during an attack of malaria to a malaria-positive child and another reporter lost his son to the disease. Putting communities at the heart of reporting efforts has the potential to generate a deeper understanding and the evidence needed to push for systems-change.
Read more in our feature for The Telegraph.