25 July 2012, Sweetcrude/African Press Organization (APO), GENEVA, Switzerland – Four months after it intervened in Kinkondja, a remote area in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), MSF has handed over its emergency malaria project that saw 10,000 patients being treated every month.
Intervention just one of numerous emergency malaria projects ongoing throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the disease is endemic and remains the leading cause of death for children under five.
“During our short intervention, MSF treated almost 40,000 men, women and children for malaria” said Melanie Silbermann, MSF’s medical co-ordinator in Lubumbashi. “When we arrived, one in ten of our patients required immediate hospitalisation. In the last weeks of our intervention, this was down to one in a hundred.”
Initially, MSF had a temporary team stationed in Kinkondja to deal with a cholera outbreak in the area. More than 1000 cases had been treated when the team were alerted to the number of children dying from malaria. The sounds of funerals – singing and drumming – night after night signalled the need to launch an urgent intervention.
In response, MSF immediately deployed an emergency medical team to run mobile clinics in the area. Local health centers were supplied with rapid diagnostic tests and Artesunate-Combination Therapy (ACT) medicine so the disease could be caught in its early stages and treated. and avoidable deaths prevented.
In the local hospital, MSF worked alongside Congolese Ministry of Health staff to treat the high number of severe malaria patients requiring hospitalization. There were times when more than 100 patients were admitted per week; which meant that extra beds had to be put up to be able to take care of the patients. Patients, mainly children below 5 years, were often in a critical condition and more than half of them needed a blood transfusion. The laboratory was supported to ensure that these transfusions were carried out safely.
In DRC, malaria remains the leading cause of death for children under five and is endemic throughout the country. In the Katanga province, and elsewhere in the Congo, the absence of other healthcare providers and overstretched health systems leave people vulnerable to contracting malaria.
MSF’s emergency response is saving lives in the short term, but in the longer term the organization cannot address the crisis alone. MSF calls on the Congolese government, national and international health actors to take rapid and sustainable measures to prevent and treat malaria in order to avoid unnecessary child deaths.