IFRC receives grant to combat malaria in conflict-stricken Central African Republic

By Katherine Mueller, IFRC

They are sobering statistics. In the country of Central African Republic (CAR), malaria remains the main cause of morbidity and mortality, with Doctors Without Borders reporting that more than 60 per cent of health facility visits are due to this fatal mosquito-borne disease.

In the north-west part of the country, the number of malaria cases has almost doubled in the past year, partly because of insecurity caused by armed groups operating in the rural north. And a recent assessment by Mentor Initiative indicates that malaria accounted for 70 per cent of all child deaths in hospitals not supported by non-governmental organizations between May and July this year. Malaria’s main victims are children under the age of five in Africa. It continues to kill more than 650,000 people globally every year.

“People are dying, unnecessarily, from a very preventable and treatable disease,” said Mr Antoine Mbao Bogo, President of the Central African Red Cross Society. “It is imperative that we step in now to support those most vulnerable before this malaria crisis worsens.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is teaming up with the Global Fund to combat malaria in the the Central African Republic. As the principal recipient of the Global Fund grant of 18.5 million Swiss francs (20.5 million US dollars), the IFRC will distribute more than 2 million long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets across the country, reaching more than 4 million people.

“Over the next two and a half years, this partnership will allow us reach every segment of the population in the Central African Republic, through the distribution of bed nets,” said Mr Denis Duffaut, the IFRC’s regional representative for Central Africa. “We will also be able to better diagnose people and provide them with standard malaria treatment drugs, ensuring they receive the treatment they need. This is vital if we are to have a real effect on the malaria rate.”

The recent upheaval in the country, which culminated with the overthrow of the government in March, left many hospital and medical centres damaged, with no equipment or supplies. As a result, thousands of people do not have access to healthcare. The potential for further violence has resulted in many aid agencies withdrawing from the country, enhancing the vulnerability of the population.

“With our network of volunteers, living in the very communities we are trying to reach, the Red Cross is best placed to channel and implement this grant,” said Mr Yomba Eyamo Albert, Secretary General of the Central African Red Cross Society. “We work to extend the reach of health services and bring prevention, diagnosis and treatment closer to the most vulnerable members of the population. We will also strengthen linkages between health facilities and communities.”