Organization combats malaria in Guinea in the face of climate change

Clinic+O healthcare workers with a patient in rural Guinea.
Clinic+O healthcare workers with a patient in rural Guinea.

Courtesy of Nasser Diallo

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Climate, Public Health

Founder and CEO of Clinic+O Nasser Diallo is working to bring accessible healthcare to people in rural Guinea amidst the rise of malaria.

Diallo founded Clinic+O because he grew up in rural Guinea with a diabetic father and understood from a young age the difficulties of dealing with a chronic illness in an area lacking a healthcare system. Malaria is one of the illnesses Clinic+O treats and according to the World Health Organization, Guinea and other countries have had an increase in cases of malaria which may be related to climate change.

The rainy season

According to the Mayo Clinic, malaria is a disease caused by bites from infected mosquitos. Patients first experience symptoms like chills followed by high fever and lots of sweating. Malaria is uncommon in the United States and more common in areas of Africa south of the Sahara, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Guinea is only a few hundred miles north of the equator, meaning it is located in a subtropical climate with a dry and a wet season. The dry season takes place from November to April followed by the wet season in May to October. Diallo said throughout his life he has seen an increase in how long the wet season in Guinea lasts. 

“We used to have three to four month rainy season and now we have six months of rainy season,” Diallo said. 

He said the increase of the rainy season has to do with climate change. The National Centers for Environmental Information reported increased temperatures caused by climate change result in more rain. 

Per Diallo’s observations, Guinea has seen a longer rainy season because of increases in temperatures. According to the Climate Change Knowledge Portal, Guinea used to have an average air surface temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but this number has jumped to almost 80 degrees in recent years. 

Diallo said cases of malaria are seasonal in correlation with the rainy season because Guinea has a “very, very inefficient” waste management system. Diallo said people in Guinea pile their trash up on the streets because there is nowhere else for it to go. He also said Guinea does not have a good draining system which has consequences when it rains. 

“When it rains that trash spits back into the community,” Diallo said. 

According to a study from Stanford University, mosquito-borne diseases, like malaria, are expected to grow with climate change, but a high presence of trash in communities is another factor in the increase of cases.

Communities combat malaria

Presently, Diallo is combating these cases of malaria through Clinic+O. Since the founding of the organization, they have treated a total of 104 cases of malaria per their database. 

Diallo said Clinic+O focuses on introducing healthcare to citizens of Guinea through technology. He said when he first started Clinic+O in 2021, Diallo used Facebook to advertise Clinic+O and WhatsApp to connect with patients. He said he has now moved away from those ways of technology and instead made his own online application which puts all aspects of Guinean healthcare into one place.  

“We have developed an application that only help patient record other data but also create an interpretable connection between all the stakeholders within healthcare system including consultation, lab exams and medication,” Diallo said. 

Unlike other organizations providing healthcare in Africa, Clinic+O trains citizens of rural Guinea to diagnose and treat the members of their community. Diallo said there are not enough healthcare professionals in Guinea, so they used the people they could find. 

“We do not have enough physicians, we do not have nurses,” Diallo said. 

He said when a patient comes into the Clinic+O facility in their village, they are treated by local community members. But if a health situation a patient is facing goes beyond the abilities of local communities, Clinic+O has over 90 medical professionals a patient can be put in contact with through telehealth technology, per Clinic+O’s website

Through Clinic+O, over 35,000 patients have been “screened and educated” and 17,000 have received remote telehealth consultations. 

When treating patients with malaria, Diallo said Clinic+O uses a “holistic” approach because Clinic+O wants to understand the environment the patient lives in. He said Clinic+O healthcare workers ask patients whether they have mosquito nets and proper sanitation, such as an indoor bathroom or healthy drinking later. 

“Those are the questions we require,” Diallo said. 

A patient tests for malaria by a healthcare worker drawing blood. (Courtesy of Nasser Diallo)

He also said Clinic+O healthcare workers ask questions about a patient’s symptoms. If their symptoms point toward malaria, they make a patient take a rapid test by pricking their finger into a cassette. If a patient tests positive, they are treated with medication.

Diallo said the method Clinic+O uses to ship medication to rural locations is sustainable because it uses local taxi drivers which he compared to Uber. He said when rural Guineans use Clinic+O for their healthcare, it also cuts the cost of shipping their medicine. 

He said the cost of malaria medication is between $1 to $3 for patients using Clinic+O. Diallo said patients living in rural Guinea who do not use Clinic+O for their healthcare may need to travel between four to eight hours to purchase medication and pay closer to $12. 

“[We] are just selling our own medication and paying them a fraction of what we would have paid if we would have had to take our own car and send that medication,” Diallo said. 

After a few days on this medication, Diallo said the patient is then called back for a checkup. He also said Clinic+O looks to integrate practices into the community to avoid citizens from developing more cases of malaria through collaborating with the local government on plans for a more effective waste management system.

“Local government is supposed to help me put together an effective waste management system whereby people can come and collect my waste, either for free or in exchange for a fee,” Diallo said. 

Diallo said there should be more research on climate change’s relation to malaria and he would be open to collaborating with scientists on the subject to develop more research. 

“We need to make sure the future that we will be leaving for our children is better than the ones we have inherited from our parents,” Diallo said. 

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