International Medical Corps incorporates malaria prevention, treatment and awareness raising into primary healthcare activities in many countries where the disease is endemic. Health workers are trained to raise awareness of symptoms and encourage early presentation at local health facilities when a case of malaria is suspected. International Medical Corps works with Ministries of Health and local health staff to build the capacity of community-level health providers to diagnose and treat malaria at primary health care centres and rural health posts. Health workers are also trained in administering front-line antimalarial medicine and we work with health ministries to ensure that these are available in public health facilities.
International Medical Corps recognizes that preventing malaria is a vital component to combating the disease. We support the provision of long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITNs) to families in areas where malaria is widespread. We also work with beneficiaries to train them in maintaining and cleaning the nets, while also educating them in why they are important and how to use them. This is key to ensuring proper use of the nets, which are extremely effective when used correctly. These are delivered free, following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, to ensure that even the most vulnerable can access this vital prevention method. We prioritize children and pregnant women, as they remain the most vulnerable in communities, however International Medical Corps works to expand coverage to all community members wherever feasible in order to enhance the protection of the whole community.
We also work with governments and local authorities to undertake indoor residual spraying (IRS) as a further preventive method. IRS is conducted on a seasonal basis, and while it does not directly prevent people from being bitten by mosquitoes, it helps to reduce the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes by killing them if they rest on the surface of walls that have been sprayed. Indoor walls and ceilings are sprayed with a combination of insecticides, which is performed by qualified personnel with the consent of the community. International Medical Corps works closely with community leaders and governments to ensure local buy-in of this intervention, and trains staff in spraying to ensure that it is conducted in a safe and sustainable manner.
Malaria is an infectious disease spread by mosquito bites. It is caused by the parasite Plasmodium, which multiplies inside the human body and infects red blood cells. Without treatment, malaria can disrupt blood supply to vital organs and become fatal.
People most at risk:
Roughly half the world’s population (3.3 billion people) is at risk of malaria, though certain groups are more vulnerable, including young children, pregnant women and people living with autoimmune disorders such as HIV/AIDS. About 90% of deaths from malaria occur in Africa.
Malaria is a treatable disease, but early diagnosis is important in preventing death. Most cases can be treated using artemisinin-based combination therapy, though drug-resistance is increasing, undermining malaria control efforts.
Malaria flourishes in warm, tropical climates and disproportionately impacts poor countries. Thirty-five countries (30 in sub-Saharan Africa and 5 in Asia) account for 98% of global malaria deaths. In Africa, malaria is the second leading cause of death from infectious disease, after HIV/ AIDS.
Progress in combating this deadly disease has been made through heavy investments in malaria prevention as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goal to have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015. Currently 55 countries are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75%.
Malaria is spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Plasmodium, which in many parts of the world has developed resistance to malaria medicine. In humans, the parasite multiplies in the liver and infects red blood cells, which can disrupt blood flow to vital organs. Symptoms usually appear between 10 and 15 days after a mosquito bite and include fever, headache, chills and vomiting. These symptoms often get ignored or misdiagnosed; if left untreated, malaria can quickly become fatal.
Information from World Health Organization
The main way to prevent malaria is through vector control. In areas that are at high risk of malaria, distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets and spreading indoor areas with insecticides should be the primary public health interventions to prevent the transmission of malaria at the community-level. Travelers visiting malaria endemic countries can take malaria prevention drugs. To treat malaria, early diagnosis is critical. The best available treatment to date is artemisinin-based combination therapy. However, the infection has demonstrated increasing resistance to medicine, making prevention the most effective treatment.
For nearly 30 years, a significant number of International Medical Corps’ responses have included technical assistance for the treatment and control of infectious diseases and epidemics. We help vulnerable communities prevent and respond to infectious diseases that have the potential to cross borders and become acute public health risks including cholera, diarrhea, measles and polio.