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Malaria peak in Chad: a preventable emergency

08.10.13
 MWA_OFFICER

While Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF) is responding to an acute malaria peak in Chad, the first results of a prevention campaign led in the south of the country are spectacular. 70% less cases after the distribution of a preventive treatment, it’s a real hope for the fight against malaria, first killer of children under five in Chad.

Since July, more than 40,000 new malaria cases have been treated by MSF in Am Timan, southeast of the country, and in Massakory, west of the country. ”In Massakory hospital, we admit between 20 and 40 malaria patients each day” says Letizia Becca, MSF medical coordinator in Chad. “In addition to a great increase of cases, their severity is indeed worrying, for adults and teenagers – something I had never seen before – as well as for children who remain the most hardly hit”.

When combined to another disease, such as acute malnutrition, malaria can be lethal. “My son is 6 months old. When MSF nurses came to our village, they told me that if my son gets fever, it can be because of mosquitoes’ bites. So when my child fell sick, I brought him to the health centre and they directed me here”, tells Florence in Moissala MSF malaria unit. “Now my son is better and I’m relieved”.

In addition to treating patients, MSF has deployed considerable means to respond to the crisis: supplying of health centres with medicines and rapid diagnostic tests, mobile clinics to reach remote areas and sensitization campaign aired by community radios.

If these operations respond efficiently to the current emergency, the seasonal malaria chemoprophylaxis (SMC) demonstrates today that it is preventable. SMC consists in giving to children under five oral combined anti-malaria medicines during the season at high risk of malaria transmission. 50,000 children received it this year in southern Chad. “SMC reduces the number and the severity of malaria episodes for children and prevents that they sink into a critical and potentially lethal state” explains Alain Camp, MSF head of mission in Chad. “A fall of 70% of malaria cases in less than a week after the distribution of the treatment, it’s spectacular and very encouraging,” he concludes.

All the more encouraging that the national program against malaria itself has implemented this strategy in four districts this year. Against the plague of malaria in Chad, it is essential that Chadian authorities are pressed to enlarge it to the whole territory. MSF calls on donors to support the Chadian ministry of health and its partners by making SMC a priority of their funding of the fight against malaria in Chad in 2014.

MSF intervenes in Chad since more than 30 years and has currently regular programs in Abéché, Am Timan, Massakory and Moissala. The seasonal malaria chemoprophylaxis is implemented by MSF in Chad, Mali and Niger.