16 September - Malaria Consortium, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the National Drug Authority, WHO and other NGOs, has launched a $6.2 million (about £10.1 million) project to create a private sector market for quality malaria rapid diagnostic test kits (mRDTs). These tools enable all health service providers to diagnose patients with suspected malaria cases in just 20 minutes.
All key stakeholders attended the official launch of the three-year pilot project, held in Wakiso district. The commitment of the district leaders – both where the project is piloted and where it is going to be scaled up next year – and the tremendous turnout of community members and private retailers is very encouraging for the project’s further implementation. It shows that the project is addressing a real need in this sector. It will be rolled out to six additional districts in the mid-western region; Kibaale, Masindi, Kiboga, Kyankwazi, Hoima and Buliisa.
From public …
In Uganda, emphasis was initially placed on public health facilities. Tests kits were provided at all public health facilities, and government health workers were trained in mRDT use, following guidelines developed by the Ministry of Health with the support from Malaria Consortium. However, over 50 percent of Ugandans seek medical care and treatment in the private sector, of which many lack laboratory facilities and diagnostic capabilities.
… to private
The UNITAID-funded project will now support the availability of mRDTs in the private sector and promote the importance of diagnosis among private providers and consumers. Negotiations with the manufacturers have been concluded and trainings of private providers using e-learning methods have been carried out in the pilot area.
Testing before treatment
The new national policy calls for mandatory testing of all suspected malaria cases before treatment. There are many other common diseases which present with signs and symptoms similar to malaria. Treatment without testing leads to wastage and misuse of medicines, and increases the risk of creating parasites resistant to anti-malarials.
At the launch ceremony, the Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme, Dr Okui, urged the private providers to advise people to always get tested before they take medicines. “mRDTs are safe and efficient”, he insisted. “Malaria is still the largest killer in the country, but as prevention measures are being taken and the malaria rate falls, early diagnostic and appropriate treatment are crucial to improve malaria control in the country.”