May 19, 2014 by Jim Stipe
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Catholic Relief Services
BALTIMORE, MD, May 19, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and British-based NGO Malaria Consortium have been awarded up to $64.7 million for the largest-yet program to use an effective new public health approach to combat malaria across the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease remains one of the leading causes of illness and death of children under five.
The program is funded by UNITAID, an innovative global health initiative largely financed by a levy on air tickets. It provides sustainable funding to boost market availability of affordable medicines and diagnostics for HIV, TB and malaria.
“Nearly 500,000 children die from malaria every year,” said Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, CRS President & CEO. “Any additional protection we can give children is going to make a huge difference. This type of treatment is 75 percent effective in preventing malaria, is also cost effective and can be administered by local community health workers, making it a sustainable approach in rural areas.”
The new project, called ACCESS SMC – which stands for Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention – is led by Malaria Consortium and will target a total of 7.5 million children in seven countries in West and Central Africa over a three-year period. As the lead sub-recipient, CRS will partner with Ministries of Health in four of the seven countries – The Gambia, Mali, Niger and Guinea – touching the lives of 3.75 million children.
Seasonal malaria chemoprevention is a relatively new approach recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2012. It involves the regular administration of anti-malarial medication during the rainy season to children between three and 59 months, the age group most at risk for severe illness and death. The children are given anti-malarials once a month throughout the three- to four-month high-risk season in order to maintain therapeutic drug levels in the blood. WHO estimates that SMC can prevent 75 percent of malaria cases.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the first major scale up of SMC,” added Dr. Woo. “Currently, only three percent of eligible children are benefiting from this intervention. ACCESS SMC will increase that number nine-fold.”
This grant will help increase the countries’ capacity to scale up the new intervention by reducing prices for SMC products in the target countries and is expected to supply an estimated 30 million doses every year to protect 7.5 million children, preventing around 50,000 deaths.
CRS will also be responsible for overseeing monitoring activities of the SMC program led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on drug resistance and adverse drug reactions, as well as communications and advocacy activities led by Speak Up Africa, a health communications and advocacy organization based in Senegal. Other partners in the project include Management Sciences for Health and Medicines for Malaria Venture.
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.