IMA World Health/ Staff
The fever, chills and body aches that accompany malaria may seem like common cold or flu symptoms, but the tiny parasites that cause malaria are much more sinister. Spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is the fifth leading cause of death in developing countries.
Fortunately, through the efforts of IMA World Health and many others in the global health and development community, over the years remarkable progress has been made to prevent, treat and combat malaria for those most vulnerable.
As we observe World Malaria Day on April 25, there is much to talk about and celebrate. According to the World Malaria Day website, malaria deaths in Africa have been cut by one third within the last 10 years; outside of Africa, 35 out of the 53 countries affected by malaria have reduced cases by 50% in the same time period. Our efforts are paying off – which means we must keep pace and continue our work to keep the momentum going.
How we combat malaria
Successfully combating malaria takes an integrated approach of multiple methods, and IMA World Health has been implementing these and other interventions for more than a decade in DR Congo, Tanzania and South Sudan.
- Malaria Nets: Sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets is a simple way to prevent malaria infection. Last year, IMA targeted thousands of refugees and returnees in particularly vulnerable parts of South Sudan with LLIN distribution to help curb malaria among this at-risk population. In DR Congo, IMA distributed more than 1 million long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) between 2006 and 2010 through the USAID-funded Project AXxes. Mujinga Ilunga, a Congolese mother of three, told us, “Before we started using LLINs, I was always seen in the health center almost every other week because my children were getting fever from malaria.”
- Preventive Treatment for Pregnant Women: Nets alone cannot overcome malaria; improving access to quality primary health care is a critical step toward conquering malaria and other diseases that plague the developing world. An intervention called “Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy” (IPTp) involves giving preventive doses of medicine to pregnant women in order to reduce the adverse effects of malaria on women during pregnancy. In our work to strengthen health systems and service delivery in DR Congo and South Sudan, IMA has stressed the importance of IPTp as a key part of primary health care. Through Project AXxes, for example, IMA dramatically increased IPTp throughout the four year project, culminating in a 71% coverage rate—compared to the national average of just 5%.
- Raising Awareness: Encouraging people to participate in prevention and treatment activities is an important part of combating malaria. Through the “Stopping a Killer” Malaria Sermon Guide, created by IMA in partnership with the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty, Christian and Muslim faith leaders in Tanzania have received access to and training on Scripture-based sermons that encourage people to take proper precautions to prevent malaria – such as sleeping under a net or receiving IPTp – and to take quick and appropriate measures for treatment.
Though malaria is a powerful disease, we are working hard to conquer it with the hope of one day eliminating it completely. In the meantime, our work is leading to fewer deaths, less economic strain on people and communities as a result of fewer days of illness, and a brighter, healthier future for children and adults. At IMA, that is what our work is all about.