International development organisation Transaid and the Swiss product development partnership, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), are joining forces in collaboration with the National Malaria Elimination Centre (NMEC) of Zambia, to develop innovative approaches to improve severe malaria case management in rural and other high-burden areas.
The project aims to address the lack of access to quality severe malaria medicines and case management in Serenje District, Central Province, Zambia, which has one of the highest malaria prevalence rates in the country.
The two organisations will seek to reduce current delays in receiving treatment at household and community health centre levels, by increasing access to key malaria medicines and strengthening emergency transport systems for patients with severe malaria.
The project will serve as a pilot in the development of an evidence-based and sustainable strategy to help improve nationwide access to successful management of severe malaria in high-burden settings.
Children under the age of five years will be the key target group, as they are most at risk of contracting malaria – particularly in rural settings where cases of uncomplicated malaria can become life-threatening if access to treatment is delayed.
Implemented by a consortium of partners – Transaid, Health Partners Zambia (HPZ), MMV and the Zambian organisations Development Data, Disacare, and the NMEC – the project builds on the community engagement and innovative training approaches successfully used in the Mobilizing Access to Maternal Health Services in Zambia (MAMaZ) and the MORE MAMaZ programmes which ran between 2011 and 2016.
Transaid’s Chief Executive Caroline Barber comments: “Our consortium is very proud of our achievements in the MAMaZ and MORE MAMaZ programmes, where skilled birth attendance rates increased by 27 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively, after several decades of minimal improvement. We are so pleased to be working with MMV, we hope to tackle the issue of severe malaria in Serenje and ensure we build sustainable capacity to continue the work once the project has ended.”
Commenting on the new partnership, Dr David Reddy, MMV’s CEO said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Transaid on this exciting project to help save lives today and in the future. The majority of lives lost to malaria are those of children living far from health services, who simply don’t get the treatment they need in time. By improving access to quality medicine and improving case management, we can help change that.”
In line with WHO guidance, optimal case management of severe malaria in remote areas involves the use of rectal artesunate suppositories (RAS) for pre-referral treatment of severe malaria cases in children under 6 years at the community level, followed by injectable artesunate (Inj AS) treatment at the health facility level, and oral artemisinin combination treatment (ACT) once the patient has recovered sufficiently to be able to take oral medication.