WHO releases treatment guidelines for malaria

28 Jun 2006
The Herald

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new malaria treatment guidelines that re-emphasise the use of Artemisinin Combined Therapy (ACT) in the treatment of uncomplicated malaria.

This comes at a time when there is increasing concern that the deployment of artemisinin monotherapy will compromise the long-term effectiveness of the artemisinin derivatives.

In fact according to WHO country representative Dr Evaristo Njelesani, there was a need for closer collaboration with all stakeholders, including the private sector to ensure that there was no more artemisnin monotherapy in the country and Africa as a whole.

Drug resistance has been reported in several African countries lately, which has contributed to ineffective treatment of malaria.

ACTs were seen as the new hope, as they are said to have a rapid therapeutic effect in clearing malaria parasites and reducing symptoms.

Dr Njelesani said there was need therefore to make available ACTs that were simple to take and affordable, particularly fixed dose formulations for young children to complement the existing co-packaged ones.

The Research and Development community, he said, should intensify efforts to produce easy to use and cheaper ACT formulations.

"We call on partners to subsidise the cost of ACTs to ensure that price does not constitute an obstacle to access by those in need and that these effective drugs are available near every home.

"There is also a need for joint efforts by stakeholders to tackle the health system barriers to access to treatment for the vulnerable population," he said.

ACTs are reportedly active against drug resistance strains of malaria, making them more effective in malaria control.

At the recent Africa Malaria Day commemorations Dr Njelesani said WHO counted on the support of donors and funding partners such as the Global Fund, the World Bank and bi-lateral organisations to continue to make available resources for the procurement of ACTs.

He said there was also a need to aggressively pursue new approaches that would enhance other cost-effective strategies to ensure that the region's long term goal of halving the burden of malaria by the year 2010 was achieved.

"We recognise that malaria disproportionately afflicts the poor in our countries, trapping them in a vicious circle of poverty.

"Our collective efforts to reduce poverty and make progress towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals should therefore start by addressing issues of access by the most vulnerable to effective treatment for malaria."

WHO, he said, supported Zimbabwe to develop its national malaria treatment guidelines and would soon support cascade training of health workers using the new guidelines to roll out the new policy.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare has since said the country was expected to start using ACTs this year.

Zimbabwe's round five proposal to the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria focuses on malaria case management using ACTs.