Malaria Consortium is ensuring that around 12 million children under five will receive life-saving protection from malaria despite the COVID-19 pandemic as it prepares to deliver its seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) programme across Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria.
SMC, recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a core malaria intervention capable of preventing up to 75 percent of malaria cases in under-fives, is an essential health service that must be continued as a priority.
Earlier this year, the successful delivery of SMC was at risk following the emergence of the COVID-19 global health crisis. Travel restrictions, suspension of community gatherings and physical distancing were measures introduced by governments as part of COVID-19 containment efforts in the countries where Malaria Consortium is delivering SMC campaigns.
To overcome these new challenges, Malaria Consortium developed operational guidance on implementing SMC in the context of COVID-19. This guidance was then expanded by a steering committee and has since been endorsed by WHO and published by Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria.
In addition to this global operational guidance, Malaria Consortium has developed extensive, enhanced safety and infection prevention contingency measures to greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection for community distributors, health centre staff and the communities where SMC is delivered. Significant adaptations to SMC training and delivery have been undertaken, as well as the procurement of additional resources including protective equipment, hand sanitiser and disinfectant to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission in the delivery of life-saving drugs to households.
The adaptations will also support COVID-19 response systems already set up by governments, with community distributors able to identify community members with possible symptoms of COVID-19. Widespread communications incorporating handwashing and social distancing messaging also form an additional central component of the SMC campaign this year.
“It is inevitable that the COVID-19 pandemic is presenting governments with new challenges and difficult decisions however, continuing essential health services needs to be priority to avoid preventable deaths from diseases like malaria. Malaria Consortium is uniquely placed to provide its full cooperation and support to collaborate with governments in responding to these new challenges and ensure the successful delivery of SMC in this changed landscape,” noted James Tibenderana, Malaria Consortium’s Technical Director.
In Nigeria, which accounts for 25 percent of the 228 million cases globally, Malaria Consortium has worked extensively to establish provision and make the necessary adaptations to conduct much of the nation-wide training activities remotely via Zoom. In addition, national stakeholders were engaged to secure a state government waiver to conduct SMC training face-to face with health facility workers and community members where necessary. Following advocacy activities in Chad, the Ministry of Health granted an exemption from the ban on moving between cities so that Malaria Consortium staff can support the delivery of the SMC campaign as planned.
At a time when there are mounting concerns about the impact of reported widespread disruptions to treatment and prevention programmes of some of the world’s deadliest diseases – including malaria – due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever that Malaria Consortium continues to deliver necessary life-saving malaria prevention programmes like SMC on this scale.
Find out more about how Malaria Consortium is adapting and innovating during COVID-19 through our COVID-19 hub.
Find out more about our work on SMC.