Despite concerns about widespread disruptions to interventions targeting some of the world’s deadliest diseases – including malaria – due to COVID-19, Malaria Consortium scaled up delivery of its life-saving seasonal malaria chemoprevention intervention (SMC) to reach over 12 million children under five in 2020.
Between July and November, Malaria Consortium worked with ministries of health and other partners in Burkina Faso, Chad, Nigeria and Togo to ensure that millions of children from 3 to 59 months, who are most at risk from malaria, were able to safely receive this essential health service despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
As well as ensuring this year’s campaigns were able to run successfully and COVID-19 safe, our SMC programme extended its reach – doubling the number of children under five receiving the intervention with Malaria Consortium’s support across Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria, from six to 12 million and supporting an existing programme in Togo for the first time.
Dr Audu Bala Mohammed, National Coordinator of Nigeria’s National Malaria Elimination Programme – a country that accounts for approximately 25 percent of the 228 million cases of malaria globally – said:
“Working together with Malaria Consortium, we came up with so many innovative strategies to overcome issues of social distancing, hand washing […] and adapting procedures to still do the door-to-door intervention. Malaria Consortium supported us in procuring personal protective equipment and by providing access to Zoom because of the need to do training online. This has proved really valuable and we have used it a lot in preparation for SMC and even in other interventions […] and other interactions that we have with partners at the state level – it has gone a long way in helping us to be able to carry out the campaign successfully.”
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 measures introduced by governments as part of COVID-19 containment efforts in the countries where Malaria Consortium delivers SMC meant a rapid and agile, COVID-19 safe response was needed to ensure the 2020 campaign could continue.
To overcome these new challenges, Malaria Consortium led the development of global operational guidance on implementing SMC in the context of COVID-19 to advise on the necessary adaptations required to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission, from conducting training to the distribution of the antimalarial medicines to households by community distributors. Specially designed job aids were also created as a visual resource to guide them through the process and additional resources, including face masks and hand sanitiser, were procured to minimise the risks of COVID-19 transmission during the delivery of the drugs to households.
These adaptations also supported COVID-19 response systems already set up by governments, with community distributors able to identify possible symptoms of COVID-19 within communities. Widespread communications incorporating handwashing and social distancing messaging also formed an additional central component of the SMC campaign this year.
Find out more about how Malaria Consortium has adapted and innovated during COVID-19 through our COVID-19 hub.
Find out more about our work on SMC.