Preventing Malaria in Pregnancy in Mali

This piece was originally featured on the PMI Impact Malaria blog.

Written by Katherine Kemp, PMI Impact Malaria Communications Coordinator. Contributions from Samba Coumaré and Cheick Traore, PMI Impact Malaria Mali.

PMI Impact Malaria is funded and technically assisted by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with JhpiegoMedical Care Development International (MCDI), and UCSF.

“Every morning I took my tô (traditional Malian okra-based dish) before going to the field and, in the evening, I watered my garden and harvested my crops – all without a malaria problem. Often, I even carried bags of rice and baskets of tomatoes without any assistance.”

Djeneba Kone was able to tend to her fields all throughout her pregnancy, preventive malaria care helped to keep her healthy enough to do so.

The 28-year-old resident of Soké, Mali, and mother of four visited her local community health center for routine checkups, or antenatal care, throughout her pregnancy. Here, during four separate visits and under the supervision of a maternity health worker, she took antimalaria pills as part of a process known as intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp).

PMI Impact Malaria, the flagship global service delivery project of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, supports Mali’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) and Reproductive Health Sub-Directorate to make IPTp and other preventive malaria services available to women like Djeneba.

In Mali, malaria transmission remains high and the entire population is at risk of malaria. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable as pregnancy reduces a woman’s immunity to malaria, making her more susceptible to malaria infection and increasing the risk of anemia, severe illness, and death. For the unborn child, maternal malaria is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight, a leading cause of newborn deaths.

“I can say that during my four pregnancies, I had no problem with malaria. Besides, here is my fourth child on my feet who is doing well just like me,” says Djeneba.

Houmeye Elmedy dedicates herself to keeping people like Djeneba and her children healthy and malaria free. As the technical director of the Mougnan Community Health Center in Djenné, Mali, she plays an active role in preventing and treating malaria in pregnancy.

With the support of PMI Impact Malaria, Houmeye recently participated in a training program on the prevention and case management of malaria in pregnancy. She learned about antenatal care, the transmission of malaria and its effects, how to prevent malaria, and how to diagnose and treat malaria in pregnant women.

Afterwards, to really drive home her skills, Houmeye participated in a clinical internship at a referral health center. Under the supervision of an experienced health provider, she practiced counseling pregnant women on how to prevent malaria and provided them with preventive antimalaria pills and insecticide-treated bed nets. She also tested those who presented with fevers for malaria and provided treatment as appropriate.

Houmeye Elmedy at the Mougnan Community Health Center in Djenné, Mali. Photo Credit: Cheick Traore, PMI Impact Malaria.

“The practical internship helped me understand the contours of malaria case management and prevention,” said Houmeye, “I learned how to calculate the dosage of antimalarial drugs according to the weight of the patients and in compliance with the NMCP guidelines.”

PMI Impact Malaria supported the NMCP in the revision of the national malaria in pregnancy training package, bringing it up to global standards recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). This package was used to conduct malaria in pregnancy trainings for over 400 health providers from hundreds of community health centers, 16 referral health centers, and two regional hospitals in Mali.

With continued support, clear guidelines, and on-going skills building for health providers, more pregnant women like Djeneba may benefit each year from lifesaving malaria preventive care.

Header Photo Caption: Djeneba Kone with her healthy child. Photo Credit: Cheick Traore, PMI Impact Malaria.

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