February 21, 2020

MCDI Malaria Warriors Series Presents: Dolores Mbang Ondo Mandumbi

By Matthew S. Lynch

"It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live." - Ethel Percy Andrus

For generations, families on Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea (West Africa coast) lived in fear of losing loved ones to the scourge of Mosquito-borne malaria. Since 2004, MCDI – alongside several other partners – has worked tirelessly to reduce malaria prevalence on the island and save lives.

Today, the partners – working under the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP) banner – have reduced malaria prevalence on Bioko Island by 76%. Much of this success should be credited to the health workers on the ground who risk their health delivering necessary services to those most in need. In honor of who we call our Malaria Warriors, we spotlight them in what we are calling our Malaria Warriors Series.

Our malaria warrior today is Dolores Mbang Ondo Mandumbi, who began working with BIMEP in July of 2014 as a nurse during Phase 1 of the vaccine trial. Please enjoy her translated interview below:

Q: What is your current role and how has it evolved since you started?

I was a bacteriology technician by training and worked as a bacteriologist.

When I started, I was a senior nurse in charge of 7 people. Now I'm the head nurse. I take part in the management, inventory, etc.

Q: Could you describe a typical workday? (e.g., your schedule, tasks, etc.)

When we go to the field, we work as a team. We have people who we call “mobilizers” (they are our advance team) and they call our volunteers. For those people who don’t have a phone, our mobilizers pay a visit to their home to let them know that we will be there the following day. As we work with the volunteers, they decide the time when they can see us. Sometimes they tell us that 6 a.m. is the best time for us to come because they will have to go to work. And so, we have to take advantage of the time they tell us, and that makes a difference. Once we have the volunteers’ schedule, we pass it onto the driver, and we get ready to visit them as a team.

Our work has two parts. Using the information provided by our GIS team, we’re able to find a house, and explain to the volunteer what we have to do during that visit (e.g., take the blood sample). We take the vital signs and we tell him/her when and where the next visit will take place, either at the clinic or at home once again.

After that is done, we bring the sample to the health center and then split it between the laboratory that we have in the health center and the one that we have in Baney's laboratory.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with MCDI/BIMEP?

The most rewarding aspect is taking part in continuous training. As a result, one also improves professionally.

Q: Can you give an example of when or where you witnessed the impact of your work, or the project’s work, first hand?

At the beginning, when we started Phase 1, there was a lot of fear. There were a lot of rumors about the trials because people didn't understand what a clinical trial was. Many people didn't know how we cared about the blood samples. Nowadays, the population has become aware of what we do, and they know that in the future these clinical trials will help a lot.

The information is being heard in the villages, house by house. They already have certain knowledge that the mosquito transmits malaria. Now science is guiding them to become aware that this disease can be treated, prevented, and that it can be improved. Nowadays, parents know to take their children to a health center asap when they have a fever, so that they can be diagnosed and treated to avoid having complicated cases. We don't see many complicated malaria cases in children in Malabo anymore.

Q: What do you see as the future of the health strategy in Equatorial Guinea in terms of malaria?

I hope that this pace [toward elimination] will be maintained. I hope that we will get to malaria eradication, keep it up, and we will expand throughout in the continental region.

When I talk about maintaining, I mean the Ministry of Health would be the one working on public health to maintain project. Like with most projects of the Ministry of Health, I believe that they are working with this project through the National Program, then they will continue working with it.

Q: How do you train the new generation of researchers?

There are some new staff members that have just arrived to our facility. They have been trained on the research protocol. Once they finish, I will distribute the work among other colleagues who also supervise the new staff members.

Then they must start their learning with us before they go in the field. The new staff must learn how we take care of the volunteers. There are trainings that involve internal simulations, prior to being in contact with the volunteer, to see how the new staff carry take care of documentation and how they take care of patients.

Q: How has your life changed since you started working for MCDI / the project?

I have learned to be more present, to have a very busy mind, and do what I have to do.

Q: What about your family?

My family is doing well. The children are grown up, with the oldest ones attending university. The little ones are 16. However, I also take care of my 9-year-old nephew at home.

Q: What is next for you?

I would like to finish my Master's degree. This is my dream. It is the path I have traced for myself.

I would like to work on record management. I am studying hospital management and strategy so when I finish, I can contribute a lot in record management.

Q: Could you tell me something else?

As a nurse or a clinician, when you come from a general hospital background into the research field, you find a different world. It is a strict world where superiors value and keep track of the work you are doing daily. There are many eyes on us at all times - it is a serious job. However, I know that I am not alone here, and that any mistake can cause the worst, so the issue is to improve every day.

Matthew S. Lynch is the Assistant Communications Officer for MCDI in the US.

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