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The World Medical Fund seeks help to combat malaria in Malawi

Source: Faiz Kermani PhD, Director of Media Relations, World Medical Fund
Published: 20/03/14
Summary
The World Medical Fund (WMF; UK registered charity number: 1063756) helps Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable children. WMF was founded with two key objectives: high achievement on the ground and low administration costs. As WMF receives no governmental funding, it relies entirely on donations and operates with minimal administrative costs (less than 4%). Last year, WMF’s team treated over 25,000 cases of sick children, with 36% of the cases associated with malaria. The organisation urgently needs help in order to maintain its life saving programmes.

Malawi’s malaria challenge
In some areas of Africa, health data have shown declines in malaria and this has been associated with the introduction of effective control programmes. However, one country where malaria retains a fearsome grip is Malawi, where it accounts for 8% of all deaths (1). A slow increase in external donor support and its translation into effective disease control and prevention coverage in Malawi have hampered progress in combating the disease (2). Furthermore, some areas of the country have benefitted later than others from malaria control interventions (3).

Making a difference
In Malawi, ongoing high malaria paediatric admission rates are a particularly urgent concern. The prognosis of untreated malaria is extremely poor and complications are numerous (1). One organisation whose staff witnesses this first hand is the World Medical Fund (WMF; UK registered charity number: 1063756), which has worked in Malawi since 1998 (4). Its programmes cover the entire district of Nkhotakota in central Malawi – an area which some have gloomily referred to as the "mosquito coast”. Consequently, malaria is one of WMF’s healthcare priorities. Malaria cases are seen all year round but more cases occur during rainy season (November to April). One of WMF’s services is a Children's Mobile Clinic, which comprises a rugged 4 x 4 vehicle carrying a clinical team and medicines. The mobile clinic visits villages and remote locations in the region. Every day WMF’s work saves young lives and eases suffering by making medical care available to village children, often for the first time. Last year, WMF’s team treated over 25,000 cases of sick children, with 36% of the cases associated with malaria (4).

Modest investment, massive impact
Highly cost-effective strategies are available to combat malaria, but without further external support, WMF will struggle to continue to implement them. Diagnosis requires a malaria rapid diagnostic test kit which can be purchased for US$1.6 (UK£ 0.96). WMF follow the WHO's guidelines which involves the prescribing of artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT) to treat uncomplicated malaria. The cost per treatment is just less than US$2 (UK£1.20).

The most effective preventative measure is the distribution of long lasting insecticides treated nets. These are distributed to the high risk groups, such as under 5s and HIV-positive individuals. For the modest sum of US$500, all the children in a typical village can be protected (4).

Help needed
WMF was founded with two key objectives: high achievement on the ground and low administration costs. To date it has managed to do this, but the organisation urgently needs more funds and other assistance to ensure that it is able to maintain its battle against malaria and save children’s lives.

For more information on WMF’s work and for details on how you can provide support please visit the organisation’s website

References

1. CDC in Malawi.
2. Okiro EA, Kazembe LN, Kabaria CW, Ligomeka J, Noor AM, Ali D, Snow RW. Childhood Malaria Admission Rates to Four Hospitals in Malawi between 2000 and 2010. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 26;8(4):e62214.
3. Roca-Feltrer A, Kwizombe CJ, Sanjoaquin MA, Sesay SSS, Faragher B, Harrison J, et al. Lack of decline in childhood malaria, Malawi, 2001–2010. Emerg Infect Dis. 2012 Feb.
4. World Medical Fund.
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