Lizzy Schwenne’s collaboration with The National Malaria Control Program

Peace Corps Liberia - Lizzy Schwenne
By Jimmy Cooper Barrosa
Jan. 30, 2024

As a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Lizzy Schwenne’s role is to work in collaboration with The National Malaria Control Program, President’s Malaria Initiative, and Peace Corps to support malaria initiatives and programing in Liberia.

The primary activities she has been supporting are the upcoming 2024 insecticide-treated net (ITN) distribution and social and behavior change communication activities for the malaria vaccine.

The insecticide-treated net distribution will begin with household registration in February 2024. For the distribution, 3,093,479 ITNs will be procured and allocated to the counties based on the projected 2024 population. Lizzy has been working in collaboration with National Malaria Control Program and national partners (Plan International Liberia and Breakthrough Action) to develop and adapt existing social and behavior change communication materials and messages for the 2024 insecticide-treated net distribution. This content has been developed to target all people of Liberia, with a primary focus on women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and caregivers of children under 5, due to their increased risk of contracting malaria.

At the National Malaria Control Program, Lizzy and her counterparts have also been preparing for the implementation of the malaria vaccine. The malaria vaccine has been under development for over 60 years, due to the complex life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite. The World Health Organization approved the first malaria vaccine, RTS,S/AS01 for widespread use in October 2021. The development of this malaria vaccine was groundbreaking, where RTS,S is the first vaccine for any human parasite! The vaccine rollout in Liberia will begin with 230,000 RTS,S malaria vaccines in 6 counties in the south eastern part of the country. These 6 counties were chosen for the rollout due to their high rates of malaria and inaccessibility during the rainy season. Vaccination will continue in the rest of the counties in Liberia with the R21 malaria vaccine, the second malaria vaccine approved for widespread use in October 2023. R21 is cheaper to produce compared to RTS,S, where it is possible to produce 30 times more R21 than RTS,S.

Lizzy has been working with one of her primary counterparts Agnes Nador and the vector control team to develop a proposal for the routine distribution of ITNs through the immunization channel. They are in the stages of finalizing this proposal where insecticide treated nets will be issued to caregivers whose children are receiving the malaria vaccine. This routine distribution will address access gaps from mass distribution campaigns and encourage mothers to take their children for the malaria vaccines, resulting in an overall increased access to ITNs to vulnerable populations at a considerable higher risk of contracting malaria. Over the next few months, she will also be assisting with the social and behavioral change component of the malaria vaccine to further encourage malaria vaccines for children under age 1.