Two emergency response campaigns recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently distributed anti-malarial drugs to more than 2.5 million people in Sierra Leone.
Malaria patients in West Africa have been afraid to seek medical treatment during the recent Ebola outbreak, or have sought treatment, only to find health facilities were shut down. The WHO responded by recommending a mass distribution of anti-malarial drugs in West Africa to reduce the spread of malaria and possibly Ebola.
“This intervention was done to reduce the number of febrile patients in the community so that people with fever caused by malaria would not be sent to the Ebola holding centers where they would be at risk of contracting Ebola,” Dr. Daniel Kertesz, Sierra Leone WHO representative, said.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, said it was imperative to be proactive.
“Malaria is a major public health problem in Sierra Leone, causing thousands of deaths every year,” Alonso said. “With the current Ebola outbreak and its impact on the health system, we estimate that without this sort of pre-emptive intervention, malaria deaths could potentially double.”
The National Malaria Control Program of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation collaborated with WHO and other global partners to send 8,330 health workers door-to-door to administer anti-malarial medications in Bombali, Kambia, Koinadugu, Moyamba, Port Loko, Toknolili and the western area.
“While a detailed assessment of the achieved impact will be completed over the next few weeks, we have reasons to believe that the distribution of the anti-malarial medicines has a profound positive impact on the transmission of malaria and the number of suspected cases attending Ebola holding centers,” Alonso said. “The community responded very positively - so positively that numbers of people wishing to receive the anti-malarial medicines were higher than expected.”