November 16, 2016
Written by JASON BEAUBIEN
The post originally appeared on NPR.
In Western and Central Africa a new technique to combat malaria is rapidly gaining traction across the Sahel. Health officials in 11 countries are now giving children antimalarial drugs during the rainy season in this semi-arid region and seeing a dramatic drop in the number of malaria cases.
The technique is called Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention. Over four months, health workers give four doses of anti-malaria drugs to children under age 5. And it’s been incredibly successful. Studies have shown that this health intervention can reduce the number of malaria cases in some parts of Africa by as much as 75 percent.
Issaka Sagara, a researcher from the Malaria Research and Training Center at the University of Bamako in Mali, says this is the first new strategy to show significant impact in the country since the mass distribution of bed nets.
“Malaria is the No. 1 disease in Mali,” Sagara says. Forty percent of all visits to hospitals and health clinic, he says, are due to malaria. And the majority of the cases happen during the rainy season from August to November.
“If you can target this season when the most transmission will be ongoing, then you really can control malaria,” Sagara says.
Children are more likely to get severe or fatal cases of malaria than adults because their bodies haven’t yet built up immunity to the parasites. So Mali and other countries are focusing on the mass distribution of anti-malarials to kids.