By Marcel Lama MD, MPH, Chief of Party, Kathleen MacDonald, MPH, Deputy Chief of Party and Alena Sims, Communications Associate, PSI
On Friday March 4, 2016, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Minister of Health, Félix Kabange Numbi Mukwampa, and Nick Hurd, the British Minister for Africa within the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), joined PSI and Association de Santé Familiale (ASF) to launch a major effort to improve availability of and provide better access to quality malaria medicines in DRC. While much progress has been made to combat malaria in recent years, DRC remains the second most malaria-affected country in the world, with upwards of 6.5 million cases each year. Through the DFID-funded “Support to Malaria Control in DRC” project, PSI and ASF are working to ensure all Congolese people have access to better prevention and treatment of malaria, thereby making it easier for them to live healthier lives.
Within the first phase of the project, nearly 3 million long lasting insecticide treated nets — the most effective way to prevent malaria — were delivered to the people of Congo. Distribution will continue in schools, households and private health centers as the project proceeds. While the first phase of the project focused on prevention, the second phase will focus on treatment. The World Health Organization recommends that all fever cases should be confirmed as malaria before treatment with the recommended artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT). However, in the private sector of Kinshasa — where 90% of malaria medications are acquired by patients — uninformed consumers continue to receive malaria medications that lack quality assurance. “Good quality malaria treatment is not yet sufficiently available and accessible to the majority of the population,” said Nick Hurd at the project’s launch event on March 4th in Kinshasa. “And so far the improvements in the malaria treatment have largely been limited to the public sector despite the fact that people often seek care from private health care providers.”
Using a multifaceted approach, the “Support to Malaria Control” project is working to improve access and build consumer demand for quality-assured malaria medicines in the private sector. “In the private sector,” pointed out Félix Kabange Numbi Mukwampa, “data shows that quality ACTs are not available or are very expensive for many of our citizens who live below the poverty line.” By providing a subsidy to manufacturers of quality-assured ACTs, the “Support to Malaria Control” project is making it possible for them to enter the DRC market and to offer the product at a price affordable by most consumers. Pharmacists and consumers can then identify quality-assured malaria medicines by their “Green Leaf” logo. A strong promotional campaign featuring the “Green Leaf” logo on billboards, radio and TV ads, and grassroots marketing is making both pharmacists and consumers more aware of the importance of quality-assured ACT and increasing demand.
Photo Credit (banner): Alena Sims