Over one million people continue to die each year from malaria, even though simple and effective tools exist which have been proven to dramatically reduce the burden of this disease. Each year, MSF treats over a million malaria patients in 30 different countries.
“The fact that quick, effective diagnosis and treatment is now possible makes the continuing tragedy of malaria in the developing world all the more unacceptable.” said Dr. Martin De Smet, malaria expert with MSF. “The necessary tools to fight malaria have been developed and now need to be used and implemented on a wider scale.”
Where reliable microscopy is not available, MSF uses Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs). These require just a single drop of blood from a patient’s finger tip to diagnose the disease within fifteen minutes. RDTs ensure that a correct diagnosis is made, and have been shown by MSF to work in many different contexts including busy hospitals, remote health outposts, and by trained village malaria workers.
The medication MSF uses is artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT). These pills are the most effective medicine to treat malaria. They have low toxicity, few side effects and act rapidly against the parasite. If a patient is diagnosed early, it takes just three consecutive days of taking ACTs for the patient to be cured.
MSF also distributes bed nets that have been treated with insecticide to people most at risk from malaria including pregnant women and children under five years old. Through health promotion activities, MSF educates communities on how to correctly use and maintain their bed net to protect themselves from mosquitoes at night.
“Developed and developing countries need to be consistently committed to supporting the fight against malaria,” said De Smet. “On the occasion of World Malaria Day 2010, MSF highlights the need for all parties to stick to their commitments to ensure the scale up and implementation of RDTs, ACTs and bed nets in countries where malaria is endemic.”