World Malaria Day: Red Cross and partners continue the battle against the number one killer in the Central African Republic

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When Solange\'s 23 month old daughter began showing malaria symptoms, she was treated for free and had the positive test results quickly. This allowed treatment to begin immediately © Nelly Muluka, IFRC

By Nelly Muluka and Happy Tchokote, IFRC

Malaria prevalence rates remain high in the Central African Republic (CAR). The capital, Bangui has some of the highest malaria rates for a major city in the world with 64 per cent of people with fever testing positive for malaria. Nationally, malaria is the leading cause of illness and death, accounting for 40 per cent of all hospital cases and deaths.

Persistent violence in the country, which started in December 2013, has resulted in nearly one million people being displaced internally or refugees in border countries and a further breakdown of local health systems, worsening an already critical situation.

With malaria still the number one killer in the country, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and other partners, is offering free diagnostic and treatment services under a Global Fund malaria grant.

Solange Beoretei, 26, a beneficiary of this grant is grateful for the potential life-saving services offered under this programme. When her 23 month old baby, Elvira, displayed symptoms of malaria, Solange visited the Petevu health facility in Bangui, one of the beneficiary health facilities, for medical assistance.

“My baby developed a fever during the night and started vomiting. Despite the fact that I did not have money, I came here this morning to seek medical attention because of the free medical services. In the past, I would have just tried to cool her body temperature using a wet rag, while hoping for the best,” says Solange.

At the health facility, Elvira was tested for malaria using the rapid diagnostic testing kit and, as suspected, she tested positive for the disease. Solange was given medication and shown how to give it to her daughter over the following five days.

“I am grateful that it took the health facility personnel only five minutes to have the test results and to start Elvira on medication. It used to take close to 12 hours for us to get results and more so, we had to pay dearly for the services,” says Solange.

Due to ongoing violence in the Central African Republic, access to health care has diminished, as several health facilities have been vandalized and are yet to be repaired. Other facilities remain closed or it simply not safe to venture out for long distances to reach a functioning health care provider. Many people have also lost their sources of income and, with increased poverty levels and unemployment, they cannot afford to pay for medical services, including malaria treatment.

Despite this grim situation, the Ministry of Health, with support from IFRC, Central African Red Cross and other partners, is making major strides in the fight to address this deadly disease. In the last 12 months more than 1.2 million long lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been distributed protecting more than 2 million people. In addition, more than 570,000 artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been distributed to treat malaria.

For more information about Red Cross work in Central African Republic, read our latest interview