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World Malaria Day

In project of action medeor, children learn how to protect themselves with mosquito nets

In project of action medeor, children learn how to protect themselves with mosquito nets © action medeor / B. Breuer

In 2017, more than 45,000 people died from malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Africa, only Nigeria records more malaria-related deaths. Most of them are children under five years of age.

DRC: Children and pregnant women are especially at risk

Since 2017, the German Medical Aid Organization action medeor has been helping to treat malaria in the eastern of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially for children and pregnant women. “More than 30 cases of malaria are recorded weekly in the hospitals of our partner organizations AEO/CAN”, reports Sophie Hövelmann, who supervises the project for action medeor. “With children under five and pregnant women especially, there is a higher risk that the disease might be life-threatening.”

action meteor's local partner organization has been working for years to prevent and treat malaria. “With our current project, we promote topic related education, enable treatment in hospitals and deliver medicines”, reports Sophie Hövelmann. The hospitals are located in the middle of the high-risk zone of malaria tropica, the most dangerous form of malaria, which occurs frequently during the whole year there. Contamination occurs through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Those infected by the disease suffer from fever, head and limb pain, and diarrhea. One in ten Congolese will contract the disease.

“Because malaria is treatable, the many deaths resulting from malaria infection are often not due to the disease itself”, explains Hövelmann. The high death rate is mostly due to concurrent circumstances: in poor regions of the world, households are acutely undernourished. In Congo, for example, many people have neither access to healthy food nor health and medical care. Additionally, many people cannot afford the costs of the treatment and do not have enough knowledge about possible prevention measures. “Under these conditions, malaria spreads quickly”, so Hövelmann.

Congo is not the only country affected. Malaria is one of the most frequent infectious diseases. According to the surveys of the World Health Organization, around 219 million people were infected with malaria in 2017. 435,000 of them died, among them were 266,000 children under five, for which the risk of death is the highest.

Most deaths can be avoided

However, most of these deaths can be avoided, as war and poverty are their primary cause. In the DRC, for example, health facilities are left abandoned and derelict because of armed conflicts and raids by rebel groups. Easily treatable diseases such as malaria only become life-threatening when vital infrastructure is missing.

A lack of structures for prevention and treatment leads to the continued spread of the disease. “In the case of malaria, humans and Anopheles Mosquitoes act as natural reservoirs”, explains Irmgard Buchkremer, head of the pharmaceutical department of action medeor. “The pathogen develops and multiplies in the human body, mosquitoes, then, take in parasites from an early stadium again through the blood. They developp in the mosquitoes and are again transmitted to other humans”, explains the pharmacist. “This circle leads inevitably to an ever increasing number of infections if it is not interrupted.”

Prevention and treatment

This is where the fight against malaria starts. It consists of the prevention of malaria and the treatment of the disease itself. Preventive measures are, for example, the protection against insect bites through sprays, mosquito nets or by combating the carriers. In the medical treatment too, there are effective medicines. „The problem is not the lack of effective treatment“, reports Buchkremer, "the problem is the lack of access to this treatment.”

To close this supply gap is one of the goals of action medeor as Medical Aid Organization – both through the delivery of malaria medicines as well as diverse projects in the area of malaria prevention and treatment.

action medeor supports ardently this access to medical care. As the biggest Medical Aid Organization of Europe, we have been advocating for over 50 years for a better and more sustainable medical care in the world. From our head office in Tönisvorst, Germany, and our branches in Tanzania and Malawi, we deliver medicines and medical equipment for health centers in around 100 countries in Africa, South America and Asia. “In case of emergencies, medicines and instruments can be send to disaster areas in a few hours”, explains Bernd Pastors, the board spokesperson of action medeor.

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