Lesley Reed is a senior writer and editor at PATH, an international nonprofit organization focusing on global health innovation, and was previously a development and famine relief worker in West Africa. Last December, she spent 10 days in Zambia traveling with photographer Gabriel Bienczycki to cover PATH’s malaria prevention program. Here, she shares behind-the-scenes stories from their time abroad.
SOUTHERN PROVINCE, ZAMBIA—Remember the last time you had malaria? Chances are, the answer is no. (And if you answered yes and live in the United States, you were probably born before 1951, the year the U.S. eliminated the disease, thanks mostly to the chemical DDT.)
In sub-Saharan Africa, far too many people still answer yes to that question. Malaria has yet to be eliminated, but one country has been leading the way.
When I traveled to Zambia 10 years ago, hospitals were overflowing with feverish children suffering from the disease. When I returned this past December, I found something entirely different: a country mobilized to end malaria. Over the past decade, PATH has been working with the local government to rapidly bring down malaria rates in the country. Malaria affects more than 4 million Zambians annually, and 8,000 die every year from the disease, according to UNICEF.
To end malaria for good, Zambia needs new strategies to stop the transmission of the parasite from mosquitoes to humans and back again. The vast majority of people who carry the parasite never go to a clinic; while many have no symptoms, they are still infectious. Thanks to a key partnership with the government of Zambia, we’re piloting a groundbreaking approach in Southern Province that aims to treat whole communities in one fell swoop.
Photographer Gabriel Bienczycki joined me for the 10-day trip, and the two of us met dozens of people involved in the effort. From ministers, teachers, and chiefs to the children who offered their fingers to be pricked for the malaria test, here are the stories that inspired us.