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Canada Supports Ground-Breaking Malaria Treatment Program in Sub-Saharan Africa
Date:12/2/2008

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Population Services International (PSI) is launching a new comprehensive project that could dramatically reduce the number of African children dying every year from malaria. The program will provide free artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) given by local community health workers to poor children suspected of having malaria. This quick-response approach to treatment will be monitored to determine if it reduces the number of African children dying from malaria. It is estimated that this program will avert half a million malaria cases and 11,000 child deaths in each of the four pilot areas.

The project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and led by the non-profit organization PSI in collaboration with TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. TDR is supported by UNICEF, United Nations Development Program, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Four African countries will be selected based on a range of criteria, including high malaria burden and the existence of community health networks, through which free anti-malarial medicines and associated health promotion communications will be delivered.

What makes this program groundbreaking is that the effectiveness of the home-based approach for delivering ACT, on child mortality has never before been monitored. ACT is not yet widely available, particularly for the most poor and vulnerable people. By measuring the health impact of home-based management of malaria (HMM) with ACT over the next 2-3 years, PSI and TDR believe that the results of the project will serve as a powerful catalyst for the adoption and expansion of these programs across sub-Saharan Africa.

The majority of the 1 million people who die of malaria every year are African children under the age of five. Malaria can progress quickly in children, with as little as 48 hours between the onset of symptoms and death. Preventing malaria-related death in endemic areas involves ensuring that children are rapidly treated with an effective anti-malarial, and that they comply with the full course of treatment.

Now that most endemic countries have switched their drug policies to highly effective artemisinin-based combination therapies, the primary constraint to effective treatment in children is access at community level, especially as almost half of all malaria cases in Africa are treated at home. This problem was recently highlighted in the World Malaria Report 2008 from the WHO, which states, "The procurement of anti-malarial medicines through public health services increased sharply between 2001 and 2006, but access to treatment, especially of artemisinin-based combination therapy, was inadequate in all countries surveyed in 2006."

PSI is one of the world's leading malaria control agencies. Since January 2005 PSI has delivered over 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets and over 12.5 million doses of anti-malarial medication. As the international community nears the deadlines for the Millennium Development Goals and Abuja Targets, PSI stands ready to accelerate the scaling up of these interventions to increase and sustain malaria control activities in 32 malaria endemic countries.

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, is a global program of scientific collaboration established in 1975, sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund, United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Its focus is research into diseases of the poor -- both improving and developing new approaches, and expanding research capacity in the countries where the diseases are prevalent.

Child survival is a priority for CIDA. Since malaria is the leading cause of death in African children under five, Canada has responded accordingly. Canada has been the largest single country donor in the distribution of free long-lasting bed nets to poor and disadvantaged children under five and pregnant women since 2002 till 2007. CIDA is now investing $20 million in free life-saving artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) delivered by community health workers in the home, and evaluating whether this approach is effective in reducing child mortality.

For more information, contact: Chris White, cwhite@psi.org.

More information about the partners can be found through the following websites:

PSI: http://www.psi.org

TDR: http://www.who.int/tdr/

CIDA: http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/index-e.htm


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SOURCE Population Services International
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