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Progress in the fight against Malaria

On 25 April, World Malaria Day, members of the Rwandan Government and up to 20,000 community members will gather with Concern celebrating their success in the fight against malaria.

Malaria is the nation’s leading cause of illness and death.

With the support of the National Ministry of Health and a consortium of three NGOs led by Concern, communities are taking on the fight against this deadly disease, and winning. Concern and two partner NGOs have made major strides in the prevention and treatment of malaria in Rwanda, and has saved countless children’s lives.

When Claudine Uwimana’s son, Eric, showed symptoms of malaria, she was terrified. Her daughter died from the disease a year before. This time she was able to visit a community health worker and get anti-malarial drugs right away. Eric took the medicine and made a full recovery.

Community based approach

Success stories like this are due to an initiative called Home Based Management of Fever (HBMF) piloted in 2003 by Concern and two other international NGOs. The initiative trained community health workers who could then diagnose and treat malaria in rural areas. The pilot was an outstanding success, increasing the number of children treated within 24 hours of first onset of symptoms, from 14% to 58%. Rwanda’s Ministry of Health has adopted the home-based management approach as national policy. Prior to this, the national average was treatment after three days.  This length of time puts a child with malaria at serious risk.

Programme expansion

Building on this success, Concern and its two original partners have joined forces again to expand the program – with full support from Rwanda’s Ministry of Health and USAID. The new “Expanded Impact Child Survival Programme” is now reaching 1/5 of Rwanda’s population and over 25% of its children under five. Mothers in rural communities have been trained to recognise fever, one of the first signs of malaria, and seek treatment from local community health workers within 24 hours. Concern is also making mosquito nets and anti-malarial medicine affordable and available to rural families. Families, who previously walked for hours seeking health support and drugs they couldn’t afford.

“While every life saved is an achievement, our goal is large-scale reduction in child mortality,” says Michelle Kouletio, Health Advisor for Concern Worldwide. “Our Rwanda programme is different because it breaks the mould, bringing effective treatments right to people’s neighborhoods – a vital, life-saving strategy for a population living on less than a dollar a day. This is a big part of the child survival revolution. We’ve built the bridge between the Ministry of Health and the local communities…” Kouletio said.

In the past year, over 75,000 children were treated by Concern-trained and equipped community health workers. 

Michelle Kouletio has worked in similar situations for over ten years, but she says, “The programme in Rwanda is incredible in its scale. The earlier the children are treated with the right medicines, the better their chances of survival. Over the next four years, we are estimating to have saved over 14,000 families from the tragic fate of losing a child thanks to these low-cost yet revolutionary strategies.”