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Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute

The Macha Area

Macha is located in the Southern province of Zambia, 80 km from the nearest town of Choma and 300 km by road (or a 55 minute flight) from the capital city of Lusaka.

The area provides a relatively pristine research environment. The rural population has not applied insecticides or employed bed nets to any degree, circumstances that provide a variety of opportunities not available in settings with a higher level of management.

The topography of the area is somewhat undulating, primarily open savanna woodland averaging 900 meters above sea level. The climate is tropical with a rainy season that runs approximately November to June.

Zambia Map
Map credit: Flying Mission Zambia


The Macha area is populated by traditional villagers, primarily members of the Batonga tribe, living in small scattered homesteads usually consisting of one extended family. There are no commercial farmers or industries in this area.  The primary livelihood is subsistence farming with maize being the main crop. The staple diet is cooked maize-meal supplemented with peanuts, sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables. While much of the population is stable, younger adults tend to move to and from the urban areas of the country.

There is an estimated population of 128,000 (c. 2000) within an approximately 35 km radius of the Institute. Macha Hospital serves as a referral hospital for a number of smaller hospitals and rural health centers, bringing patients from an 80 km radius.

Overall population density in this area is 25 per square kilometer and 50 percent of the population is under 12 years of age. Other specific data for the local population are not reliable, but country-wide the crude birth rate is 49.5 per 1,000 population with an infant mortality of 107 per 1,000 live births. Average life expectancy at birth is 48.3 years.