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TIPS ON MALARIA

  • HOW CAN MOSQUITOES BE CONTROLLED?

    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.

  • HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM MOSQUITO-BORN DISEASES?

    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.

  • WHO ARE AT RISK?


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.
     

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Mothers smile in Lilongwe

By Montfort Misunje- Malawi

Fadire Nyirenda is a community health worker responsible for follow-ups on children in the RTS,S malaria vaccine trial at the Lilongwe site in Malawi. She is responsible for Ntandire, one of the most populous shanty towns in Lilongwe city.

           Fadire Nyirenda UNC Lilongwe
               community health officer

Small, close- knit, muddy houses roofed with rusty corrugated iron sheets and sometimes thatch, dot most parts of Ntandire. Several markets and footpaths are lined with hawkers, canteens, tea-rooms, salons, butchery and groceries.

Ntandire is a haven for poor Lilongwe residents displaced from their dwellings as a result of modernisation.

As part of her follow-ups vaccine trial participants, Fadire the community health worker and Lainesi Mbilizo, mother of Lawrence, a trial participant, interact regularly to discuss how the child is faring.

For Lainesi, enlisting Lawrence in the trial is the best decision she has made regarding her son.

“Ever since Lawrence began receiving the vaccine, he has not suffered malaria,” she says. Lawrence has received three doses so far. This has improved his life in many ways. Today he looks healthier, eats more and plays more.”

This has also had a positive effect on Lainesi’s life and that of her family. The vaccine has reduced her trips with Lawrence to hospital. She saves money on transport and has more time for household chores and a small-scale business.

“I pray that the vaccine trial is a success,” she says.

Apart from receiving vaccination against malaria, Lawrence gets general medical care from the malaria vaccine trial clinic, which offers 24-hour medical care to all trial participants as part of the arrangement.

“The care Lawrence receives at this clinic is better than what he used to get in the past from other health facilities,” says the mother with joy.

About two hundred metres from Lainesi’s house lives the community’s head, Group Village Headman Chigoneka. He is full of praise for the vaccine trials.

              UNC Project - RTSS field workers
                 out into the field in Lilongwe

“From the onset of the vaccine trials, we have seen a significant reduction of malaria cases among children in our community, especially those taking part in the trial,” he says.

Chigoneka’s nephew is a candidate in the trials, and he is happy for the child’s improved health

In 2007 malaria affected 34 percent of Malawi’s population and is responsible for 40 percent of hospitalisations and 30 percent of hospital deaths of children under-five.

Lilongwe is one of 11 African sites where the phase III malaria candidate vaccine trial is being carried out.  The site, also called the George Joaki Centre, is run by the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project and is located at Area 18 Government Health Centre, in the capital.

Commenting on the project so far, Dr. Tisungane Mvalo, the Site Manager, said, “We’ve enrolled 1250 children, more than expected. It therefore means that by the end of the trial we will have enrolled more than the targeted 1600 children.”

Dr. Mvalo, who leads a team of medical officers, clinicians, nurses, clinic aides, laboratory technicians, pharmacy technicians and data personnel, further explained that there have been no concerns since the trials began.

He said enrolling candidates for the trial was easy as there was a comprehensive sensitisation programme at the onset of the project. The study involved the Ministry of Health, which in turn provided the site for the study, Area 18 Health Centre.

Members of the Parliamentary Committee for Health visited the study site at the beginning of the study.

Geoffrey Kamanya, who worked at the UNC Project before becoming an MP serving on the health committee, facilitated the visit.

“The involvement of the Parliamentary committee helped with issues regarding law and ethics of medical tests. Testing drugs or vaccines has code of laws which need to be followed and Malawi has such laws,” he said.

Dr Mvalo said traditional and community leaders have also been instrumental in the success of the study. He said it was through the leaders that community sensitisation and mobilisation for participation in the study was conducted.

There were rumours in the communities that the study is a population control project by government to sterilise the people and prevent them from having children in future.

Through the community leaders those misconceptions on the project are dispelled.

“These community leaders have been a great help to the study, and they do this voluntarily,” he said.

Other challenges include mobility of participants. Some participants have moved homes, but the study has mechanisms of following-up participants that have changed their residence.

 “Poor wiring and frequent power cuts affected the power supply to our clinic and thus affected the safe storage of the vaccine,” says Dr. Mvalo. He said donor partners addressed the issue by providing more vaccine fridges and backup power supply.

He expects enrolments for the trials to come to an end in early March 2011, after which there will only be follow-ups on participants.

If all goes well, and the RTS,S is licensed, it will put a smile on the faces of parents such as Lainesi and restore the health of millions of children such Lawrence, who languish and often die in hospitals due to malaria.

Editions: 
Sixth Edition