A pilot project aimed at reducing malaria rates has turned out great results in the Serenje district of Zambia, after health workers were armed with new medication — and bicycles, according to the Telegraph.
The project, which was run by Medicines for Malaria Venture, Transaid, and the Zambian National Malaria Elimination Centre, provided children with suspected severe malaria with rectal artesunate (RAS), and then promptly transported them to a health facility via bike.
Hundreds of community health volunteers were taught how to explain the signs of malaria to parents, and 31 of them were trained to administer the malaria medication. Emergency transport riders were hired to bring children to health centers in trailers attached to bikes.
The last part of the trek to health centers in the region was previously considered “the killing mile” because so many children died before reaching the facility to get treatment.
The administration of the drug now gives sick children about 12 hours to reach a hospital, which is especially notable in remote areas.
This pilot was tested over a year and has yielded great results.
The medication and immediate transfer to the hospital decreased death rates by 96% compared to the year before, according to the Telegraph.
Generally, 8% of children die from malaria in the region, but this program reduced that rate to 0.25% over the year of study.
“Before the project, patients weren’t being referred to health facilities or they were being referred or not going because they didn’t have the money or the means to get there,” Pierre Hugo, senior director for access and product development at Medicines for Malaria Venture, told the Telegraph.
Ensuring that health facilities had the injectable version of the malaria drug was essential in the success of this pilot program, as was the ability to train workers on its administration, according to the Telegraph.
“In fragile states and countries with poor public health infrastructure this is the ideal drug because it gives a much better survival rate by buying that extra time until a patient can get to a health facility,” he told the Telegraph.
The government is now working to repeat the project in three more districts in Zambia, and Hugo said it could work in other countries, too.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites. There were about 216 million cases in 2016 and about 445,000 deaths because of it — 290,000 of which were children under the age of 5.