Sunday, 1 May 2011

MALARIA: Kenya: How UK aid is helping to save children's lives through a cherry-flavoured malaria drug

20 April 2011 World Malaria Day on 25 April is a chance to mark the efforts that are being made globally to tackle the terrible disease. The UK government is leading the way in pioneering innovative and effective ways of tackling malaria as set out in the recently published framework for results.

Rose and her daughter Shanrol have benefitted from a new anti-malaria drug developed thanks to UK aid. Picture: Novartis
Rose and her two-year-old daughter Shanrol have benefitted from a new anti-malaria drug developed thanks to UK aid. Picture: Novartis

A preventable tragedy
Malaria is a preventable and curable disease, yet a child dies of malaria every 45 seconds. Nearly one million people die of malaria every year, mostly infants, young children and pregnant women and most of them in Africa. Malaria does not only kill, it can have long term consequences. Men and women are unable to work for long periods when they or their children become ill. Entire households can be thrown back into poverty. Severe malaria often leads to brain damage, holding back a child’s mental development resulting in lifelong impacts. But malaria can be treated effectively with existing drugs and treatment is most effective if administered within 24 hours of the onset of fever.

Life is no bowl of cherries
Rose Aluoch Ngala lives in the village of Ombeyi, 15 miles southeast of Kisumu, the third largest town in Kenya and also one of the poorest. Ombeyi is on the edge of Lake Victoria - a region where more children die of malaria than any other disease. Like many people in her village, she is a farmer. She has three young children. When her daughter Shanrol, who is two years old, became ill she was afraid. Children under five years of age die from malaria very fast.
"Her body was hot and she was not eating or playing and she was crying all the time. I took her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with malaria and I was told that she would be admitted for three days. They kept testing now and then to find out how much of the infection was in her blood and how far the disease had gone.
"This is her fourth time to get malaria and she is only two years old. The first time she was only eight months, and I took her to the hospital where she received drip water and medicine. I fear that she could die because of this disease malaria."
Shanrol was treated with Coartem-dispersible, a new cherry flavoured malaria drug and the first to be formulated especially for children. It dissolves easily in a small amount of water or breast milk. The treatment is fast and effective and will increase the use of malaria medicines by children, saving millions of lives.

A sweeter pill to swallow
As mothers like Rose know, getting children to take bitter medicines is always difficult. Children would often spit out or vomit the life saving medications designed for adults. Now Rose and millions of mothers like her can get better treatment for their children, helping to ensure they recover quickly from this life threatening illness.
"This medicine is good because my child can swallow it fast and it doesn't have any side effects, like rashes. The fever also goes down very fast. She could speak and play quickly after taking this treatment. I have seen a big difference."

Access to life saving medicine
Coartem-d was launched in 2009, the result of a public-private partnership between Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a non-profit organisation funded by DFID, and the pharmaceutical company Novartis. With funding from DFID and other international organisations, MMV has been able to rapidly increase access to and availability of the cherry-flavoured drug. In two years, 64 million treatments of this life saving medicine have been delivered to 35 countries.

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