Malaria - what works
30 May 2003
There are 300 to 500 million cases of malaria each year in more than 90 countries, 90% of which are in Africa. 1.5 to 2 million people per year die from malaria, 90% of whom are African children. It is also the leading cause of death in children under the age of five in Africa and kills between 1.3 to 1.8 million children each year. The parasite's resistance to existing anti-malarials, in addition to the paucity and expense of new treatments compromises efforts to bring the disease under control in Africa. However, an effective treatment exists: using artemisinin derivatives extracted from a Chinese plant in combination with another anti-malarial that is still effective. This combination not only treats patients rapidly and effectively, but also significantly reduces transmission of the disease. The Kwazulu Natal case in South Africa The South African province of Kwazulu Natal implemented artemisinin-combinations (ACT) as first-line therapy in February 2001 together with improved vector control measures. In the first year alone, malaria cases dropped by 78% (from over 40,000 in 2000 to 9,400 in 2001). Admissions to hospital were reduced by 82%, while malaria deaths decreased by a dramatic 87%. What needs to be done to increase access The implementation of artemisine-based combinations to treat malaria represents a high cost for the countries concerned. The G8 member states should provide the funds necessary to make these treatments available to those who need them. What MSF is doing in the fight against malaria Today, MSF runs malaria treatment programmes in 24 African countries, eight Asian countries and five Latin American countries. MSF has also carried out, in collaboration with the respective Ministries of Health, several studies on parasite resistance to drugs commonly used. To reduce mortality linked to malaria, MSF has introduced ACTs in 12 of its programmes (Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Thailand and Zambia). MSF is also helping governments to change their treatment protocols to include ACTs.