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New Malaria Treatment Introduced in Somalia

Africa Malaria Day boost for children and women

NAIROBI, 25 April 2006 – A new effective treatment has been introduced in Somalia to curb the incidence of malaria, one of the leading killers of children and women, UNICEF Somalia Representative Christian Balslev-Olesen announced today on the occasion of Africa Malaria Day.

An estimated one million children under five years of age die of malaria annually in Africa.  In central and southern Somalia, malaria is estimated to account for approximately eight per cent of all illnesses among children under five.  The burden is highest along the rivers and settlements with artificial water reservoirs where there is all-year-round transmission.

“By introducing effective drugs for malaria treatment in Somalia, UNICEF and its partners will be addressing the challenge faced by children and women in combating malaria,” said Balslev-Olesen. “  The malaria burden is worst felt among children below five years of age and pregnant women, who account for majority of the reported cases and deaths.

The policy shift from the traditional single-drug therapy was made based on evidence from Somalia and through a consultative process that brought together local health authorities and local and international partners.  The new treatment, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) is made up of two drugs, artesunate and sulfadoxine-pyramethamine.  Since January 2006, UNICEF has been training health workers in the country on malaria treatment using ACT to replace drugs to which there is high resistance.

“So far more than 450 health workers from 130 public health facilities have been trained.  As severely malnourished children are particularly vulnerable to malaria, ACT is also being provided through therapeutic feeding centres.  Alongside the new drugs, rapid diagnostic tests are being introduced.  These simple-to-use tests can confirm malaria diagnosis within 15 minutes and are useful where reliable testing is not available,” added Balslev-Olesen.

UNICEF Somalia and its partners are ensuring that the change to ACT is implemented through the training of staff of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centres and hospitals, development of implementation guidelines and distribution of the drugs including the malaria diagnostic tests that have been procured and delivered in Somalia.  ACTs are available at public health facilities across the country.

Malaria control efforts in Somalia are funded through the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2004, the Global Fund gave Somalia a $12.8 million grant to support malaria prevention and control.  One of the main components of the grant was the provision of effective malaria treatment drugs and the strengthening of diagnostic capacity.  Other activities planned included the development of a national malaria control strategy, procurement and distribution of insecticide treated nets (ITNs) to the most vulnerable, and increasing public awareness about the disease.
“About 4.6 million people, among them 966,000 children under five years of age and 230,000 pregnant women, are expected to benefit through the Global Fund initiative,” said Tanya Shewchuk, the Global Fund’s Malaria Programme Officer for Somalia.

Africa Malaria Day, which is commemorated annually on April 25, will mark the launch of ACTs and diagnostic tests in Somalia.  To sensitize the public on the availability of the new treatment, UNICEF, in collaboration with international and local NGOs, is organizing public events today in different locations.

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Africa Malaria Day
Following the historic African Heads of States meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on 25 April 2000, it was resolved that as a sign of political commitment towards Rolling Back Malaria (RBM) in Africa, the day should be marked annually as an Africa Malaria Day.  The year’s event is being commemorated under the selected theme ‘Get your ACT Together’ and the slogan ‘Universal Access to Effective Treatment is a Human Right’.

About UNICEF
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 191 countries through country programmes and National Committees to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information contact:
Tanya Shewchuk, Global Fund Malaria Programme Officer, UNICEF Somalia. Email: tshewchuk@unicef.org. Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55. Fax: +254-20-520640/7623965.

Robert Kihara, Communication Officer, UNICEF Somalia, Email: rkihara@unicef.org.  Tel: +254-20-7623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-722-721-244-800. Fax: +254-20-520640/7623965.


 

 

 

Video

24 April 2006:
UNICEF Deputy Director for the Supply Division, Stephen Jarrett, talks about the significance of Africa Malaria Day and the state of the effort to roll back malaria.

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24 April 2006:
In advance of Africa Malaria Day, Grammy-winning singer Youssou N’Dour speaks out about ways to halt the spread of this preventable and treatable disease.
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