MSF is rolling out a new strategy for the preventive treatment of malaria in Mali and Chad. The initial results, showing a drop in malaria cases and hospitalisations, are highly encouraging.
Bamako/Paris/Ndjamena, 24 September 2012 — For the first time, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is rolling out a large-scale in-situ strategy for the preventive treatment of malaria, called seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), in two pilot projects in Chad and Mali. Antimalarial treatments have been administered to some 170,000 children aged between 3 months and 5 years old; the initial results are highly encouraging, with a 65% drop in the number of malaria cases in the Koutiala project, southern Mali.
"Our teams are seeing some spectacular results in terms of falling case numbers" explains Dr. Estrella Lasry, a malaria specialist at MSF. But these are just initial results. We need to keep evaluating the impact of these distributions strategies."
During the period of high malaria transmission, generally between July and October, children receive a monthly dose of treatment based on amodiaquine and sulphadoxine/pyrimethamine. The distributions cover some 161,000 children in the Koutiala district, south-eastern Mali, and 10,000 children in Moïssala district, Chad. In both locations, sick children - with malaria or another pathology - receive immediate treatment and are excluded from the distribution.
In Koutiala district, Mali, the MSF teams saw a 65% drop in the number of simple malaria cases in the week following the treatment's administration. Furthermore, the number of malaria-associated hospitalisations plummeted from 228 to 70 per week. In southern Chad, results were equally encouraging in the two health zones just outside Moïssala town, with a drop fluctuating between 72% and 86% in the number of simple malaria cases.
"The SMC could transpire to be an extraordinary public health tool, particularly for protecting children, who account for the vast majority of deaths. We can also draw on our projects in Chad and Mali to assess the feasibility of employing these strategies on a large scale and in other contexts", continued Dr Lasry.
In March 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the use of SMC in areas of high seasonal transmission of malaria in the Sahel.
An estimated 650,000 people (source: WHO) die of malaria every year. 90% of these cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly among young children. MSF is running projects for the treatment and prevention of the most deadly diseases in young children in Mali and Chad. Since the year began, over 12,000 malaria cases have been treated as outpatients and 3,500 sick and/or severely malnourished children have been hospitalised in the Koutiala district, southern Mali. In the Moïssala district, Chad, over 18,000 malaria cases have received medical care in MSF-supported facilities or from non-medical health workers trained by MSF in villages.