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Working with Comic Relief to #fightmalaria

Over the past 15 years, significant progress has been made against malaria. According to the latest WHO World Malaria Report, deaths have more than halved since 2000.[1]

But more needs to be done.  Malaria continues to claim nearly half a million lives every year, most of them very young children in Africa. This preventable and treatable disease continues to take a heavy human and economic toll. In 2015 alone, there were 212 million new cases of malaria worldwide and an estimated 429 000 malaria deaths– 92% of which were in Africa.[2]

  • £22m

    Created by a £17 million donation from GSK and £5 million from Comic Relief

The World Health Organization has set a target to cut malaria cases and deaths by at least 90% by 2030.[3] This will take teamwork. So in 2015, Comic Relief and GSK joined forces in a five-year partnership to help strengthen health systems’ ability to fight malaria and improve people’s health in five malaria endemic countries.

This partnership builds on GSK’s longstanding commitments to fighting malaria on all fronts – from researching medicines and vaccines to supporting community prevention and education efforts.

Back to the top to read more stories from our Comic Relief partnership or click here to find out more about our work on malaria.

A new fund – created through a £17 million donation from GSK and £5 million from Comic Relief –will provide targeted grants to organisations on the frontline tackling malaria in Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and the Greater Mekong Sub Region.

These grants, made and managed by Comic Relief, will complement national malaria control programmes and help ensure people access prevention, diagnosis, and treatment at the right time and in the right place.

Davina McCall with children in Tanzania
Children in Tanzania

In December 2016, the Comic Relief and GSK partnership announced its first grants – worth £2.8 million – to support the work of three organisations fighting malaria and improving health in Tanzania:

  • Tanzania Communication and Development Center who will engage and educate communities on malaria and promote positive care-seeking behaviours;
  • Association of Private Health Facilities in Tanzania who will improve malaria healthcare services in the private and public sector, and increase malaria knowledge; and
  • Clinton Health Access Initiative who will train private providers in three districts to support health workers’ diagnosis and tracking of patients with suspected malaria.

Commenting on the grants, David Ng’ang’a, Country Manager for GSK in Tanzania, said:

“Living and working in Tanzania, we see the impact of malaria on our communities every day. As a business, GSK has long been dedicated to fighting malaria and we are pleased to be collaborating with Comic Relief to build on these efforts. Through our partnership, we are able to support three national organisations which are doing fantastic work to empower health workers and communities to take action against malaria.”

Jennie Richmond, Head of International Grants, Comic Relief, added:

“We’re excited to start working with organisations in Tanzania, complementing national initiatives and local efforts to help take the fight against malaria to the next level. Malaria is both preventable and treatable and the Comic Relief and GSK partnership believes that by strengthening health systems, malaria endemic countries will be far better placed to control this devastating disease.”

The partnership will be sharing stories from Tanzania and announcing grants in further countries during 2017.


In January 2017, the Comic Relief and GSK partnership announced a second round of grants, worth £3.5 million, to support the work of four organisations fighting malaria and improving health in Mozambique.

A malaria child patient in Mozambique
Child in Mozambique
  • Manhica Foundation who will train health planners and providers in rural health facilities and communities in the use of an electronic health management information system. This will revolutionise the way data is collected, analysed and used to improve decision making and better targeting of malaria interventions.
  • Nweti Health Communication who will use a mix of communication methods to raise awareness on malaria prevention, symptoms of malaria and other severe illnesses, and the importance of seeking care early from a health worker.
  • Programa Inter Religioso Contra a Malaria (PIRCOM) who will work with respected community and religious leaders to support a network of health committees and volunteers to increase knowledge and understanding of how to prevent and treat malaria.
  • CUAMM (Doctors with Africa) who will help provide training, mentoring and ongoing support for community and facility health workers in the management of malaria and other severe illnesses.

Nsaje, teacher

There are so many students missing class from malaria.

Nsaje, a malaria patient in Kigoma, Tanzania
Nsaje, teacher

As many as five students can be absent from Burega secondary school each day due to malaria. Nsaje, a teacher at the school in Kigoma, Tanzania, finds the situation frustrating, but also wishes she could do more when her students are absent. She would like to offer them catch up classes or extra notes so they don’t fall behind. But in reality, the school is already understaffed and there is no formal way for students to catch up. The best she can do is suggest they copy some notes from other students.

Since Nsaje started working at Burega secondary school, two students have died from malaria. Teachers recommended the student go home and get proper testing and treatment, but she later found out the parents were poor and could not afford to take their child to the health facility so they only received paracetamol. One of the students, a girl, started to have convulsions and became paralysed and later died. There was nothing Nsaje could do to help.

If Nsaje notices a child is sick, she will take them to see the health teacher and quickly assess the symptoms. They send the child home, but if they do not get adequate treatment swiftly, they often become hospitalised and can miss up to a week of school.

Nsaje has been a teacher for 12 years and remembers a time when the malaria situation in Tanzania was far worse. She says the trained volunteers who come into the schools to teach the kids about malaria really help. They come armed with different skills and information thanks to TCDC, a project that has received funding to combat malaria thanks to a partnership between Comic Relief and GSK. Njase says malaria education only comes onto the curriculum when students are in year six (about 10/11 years old) which she feels is too late. And even then, it is only taught once. So when the community change agents arrive, their knowledge is not only much more in depth but they can reach a wider age-range of students and the students learn a lot.

Despite these efforts, malaria has not been eradicated and there are still many challenges. Nsaje and her family also repeatedly suffer from malaria. They all use nets at home and take the necessary precautions, but the disease still affects someone in the family about once every two months.

Jacob, Tanzania Communication and Development Centre

This funding will help us move more towards behaviour change.

Jacob in the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre
Jacob, Tanzania Communication and Development Centre

Jacob is on the front line of the fight against malaria in Tanzania. As field operations manager for the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre (TCDC), he spends his time traveling the country and seeing first-hand how the project’s multi-pronged approach to malaria education and prevention is helping to stamp out the disease. He has worked at TCDC for four years and is proud of the work that it does. This includes using radio and TV segments to promote malaria messaging and sending mobile cinemas and road shows into communities. TCDC also works with local NGOs and trains so-called “community change agents” who are volunteers that to go into their own communities to talk to groups, schools and teachers about how to protect against malaria.

Jacob knows that it is vital that TCDC’s educational messages about malaria treatment and prevention reach all sections of society as using a net is only one part of the battle. It is crucial that communities also know they must clear away pools of stagnant water that can become mosquito breeding sites, for example. It is also vital that they trust the rapid diagnostic tests that detect malaria and complete full courses of treatment.

Jacob loves his job and says he has already seen some real progress. Country-wide, malaria has declined from 20% prevalence five years ago to 14% today. In Kigoma, western Tanzania, the area with the second-highest malaria rates in the country, prevalence is now 38% compared to 50% five years ago. Thanks to a Comic Relief/GSK partnership, TCDC is looking to take its malaria work to the next level. This will involve making sure that people are not just aware about how malaria spreads and seeking treatment, but taking the initiative to try and eradicate it in their local areas. He hopes that in the next five to 10 years he will see lasting behaviour change and believes that only by being truly engaged and working together will communities across Tanzania be able to reduce the number of children and adults getting sick each year – and eventually stamp malaria out entirely.

Leonard, 35, father, farmer and assistant healthcare provider

When I realised my baby had malaria, it was too late. That pushed me to start working for malaria awareness."

Leonard father farmer
Leonard,35, father, farmer and assistant healthcare provider

When Leonard was 19 years old, his firstborn baby became gravely sick. Leonard took him to a local witch doctor who told him the child was bewitched. By the time anyone realised that it was actually severe malaria, it was too late. The baby had convulsions and soon died. That experience shaped Leonard’s life and drove him to dedicate much of his life to helping combat malaria. 

Leonard, now 35, is a community-minded man and comes from a family of doctors and health providers. He always wanted to work in a health-related field so since the age of 20, he has tried to educate others about malaria prevention and treatment. He volunteers at a local health dispensary in the Mahembe community in Kigoma, Tanzania, where he lives. He also meets with small business groups, such as the local tailors, as well as community or church groups to tell them how to stay safe and urges them to pass the message onto their customers, neighbours and friends. Leonard receives training about malaria prevention and treatment from the Tanzania Communication and Development Center, which receives money from the Comic Relief & GSK partnership to help combat malaria.

At the dispensary, Leonard works as an assistant health care provider for a few hours most mornings. He tests people using the rapid diagnostic test, a simple pin-prick blood test. If they are positive, he sends them to the pharmacy to receive medication. He also informs them how to take the drugs, impressing on them the importance of completing the full dose. He talks to people about the actions they can take to prevent getting sick again: use a net, wear long sleeves and trousers after dusk, cut long grasses and clear away any pools of stagnant water around the house that could become a mosquito breeding site. He does all this in addition to his work as a farmer cultivating cassava and maize. He has a wife and three children.

Leonard says it is the memory of his firstborn who died from undetected malaria that drives him. He tells people about his own experiences in the hope they will not have to suffer the same experience

Leonard has seen a lot of progress during the past 15 years. He says people are now actively asking for nets, they are no longer assuming they have malaria and taking medication unnecessarily, instead they will request a test if they start to feel unwell. They are also completing their malaria dose and actively seeking out his advice. But he knows there is still room for improvement to stamp out the disease altogether. He wants to make sure there is a constant supply of malaria drugs and diagnostic tests and always tries to inform the district malaria representative if there is a near stock out. Malaria drugs also cost money and not everyone can afford them. He thinks there should be more mobile cinemas in communities disseminating educational messages about malaria as word of mouth and leaflets can only do so much.

Johari, mother of four

In the future there will still be a lot of challenges because people are still getting sick from malaria, but I’m not losing hope because of that. I am still fighting because I know things are going to change.”

Johari, mother of four
Johari, mother of four

In 2009, Johari was one month pregnant with twins when she became seriously ill from malaria. She lacked sufficient information about how to protect herself from the life-threatening disease, and throughout the pregnancy she frequently became sick. When her babies were born - one boy and one girl - she was relieved to find they were both healthy. But soon realised that the second born - her son, Hussein - had challenges. He was always poorly, and nearly every month she took him to the hospital for a check-up where he would get tested for malaria, and treated if the results were positive.

Caring for her very sick child put an emotional and financial burden on Johari and her family. She felt she could not adequately protect her children and was at a loss what to do. Then she met the chairwoman of the Kanyabeza Community Group who encouraged her to become a member. It is a small micro-finance group comprised of mostly women who live in a rural community outside Kigoma, a town in western Tanzania. The group gets its name from a nearby river. Each member must play an initial membership fee plus a small weekly contribution (less than £1) at every meeting. The money is pooled and given to members who apply for a loan, which they have to repay with interest. The interest is saved and used to help other members when they are faced with an unexpected financial burden - for example, if a child suddenly becomes ill and they need to take him to a hospital for treatment. It has become a lifeline for many who would have no other means of accessing money at short notice.

When Johari first told her husband she wanted to join the Kanyabeza Community Group, he had his reservations. Women in her community are not encouraged to be independent thinkers or self-sufficient. They are responsible for staying home and looking after the kids, and are typically given no money to support themselves or their children, even if they become ill. Luckily, Johari’s husband soon came around to the idea and has now even bought shares in the Kanybeza group himself, one of the only men to be a member.

Johari was embraced by the rest of the group who voted her in as secretary. She felt her confidence grow and has received vital education about malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and nutrition advice. She feels that the malaria situation in her community is starting to improve thanks to the work of organisations like the Tanzania Communications and Development Center, which receives money through the Comic Relief & GSK partnership. TCDC trains volunteers to go into communities and inform groups how to stay safe and protect themselves. Johari has four children - a 17-year-old, six-year-old twins and a two-year-old - and they have been malaria free for six months.

Johari, mother

I feel like malaria has wasted a lot of my time.

Johari, an malaria patient
Johari, mother

Johari says that malaria not only wastes her time but is stopping her children from achieving their full potential. The mother of two is frequently taking her kids to the hospital for malaria testing and treatment. They miss school and fall behind in lessons, making her worry that the disease is denying them the chance to fulfil their dreams. Spending so much time going back and forth to the hospital also puts a burden on her entire family and the wider community. The constant medical visits are time consuming and she wishes she had the opportunity to spend her days more productively instead.

Johari, who has had malaria several times herself, believes that the disease is more prevalent now than when she was a child. When she visits the health facility, she always sees many people waiting for malaria treatment. Her children sleep under a net, but still they get bitten frequently. She estimates one of her children is sick every few months, and they often present with malaria symptoms nearly simultaneously which can be especially demanding. TCDC, a project that has received funding to combat malaria thanks to a partnership between Comic Relief and GSK, is on the frontline of the fight against malaria in Tanzania. The project trains volunteers to go into schools and communities to educate students and residents about treatment and prevention.  Johari’s children are at one of the schools in Kigoma, western Tanzania, where TCDC’s volunteers work.

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