Following the introduction of a new bike hospital transport and drug scheme, Transaid, along with partners, decreased malaria deaths by 96%.
In an official trial carried out in the Serenje district of Zambia, children diagnosed with severe forms of malaria were administered the drug ‘rectal artesunate (RAS)’ and then transported by bicycle to a health facility for follow up treatment. Thanks to the effective combination of correct medication and the fast transport system, death rates from malaria fell by 96% in the region compared to the previous year, where such services were not available.
In previous years, malaria-related deaths in children stood at a tragic 8%. During the one year trial, however, this figure was cut dramatically to 0.25%. In other words, 3 children died instead of the predicted 97 based on the previous year’s statistics. These numbers highlight that the disease really is preventable and treatable using the right measures and thought through logistics.
The project, managed by Medicines for Malaria Venture, Transaid and the Zambian National Malaria Elimination Centre, around 500 health volunteers from local communities were trained by healthcare officials to teach parents about the signs and symptoms of malaria as well as how to administer the life-saving malaria drug: RAS. The project also involved Emergency transport riders, employed and instructed to take children to a hospital on trailers attached to bikes; a relatively fast and reliable mode of transport in the rural areas.
Whilst rectal artesunate, the drug given out in the project, is not intended to save lives on its own, it does provide a life-saving delay in the course of the disease; giving volunteers 12 hours to get children to a hospital. In rural areas such as the Serenje district, where hospitals are far and few between, the drug buys time and makes the chance of arriving at a healthcare facility in time almost certain.
Pierre Hugo, senior director for access and product development at Medicines for Malaria Venture, explained that:
“Before the project patients weren’t being referred to health facilities or they were being referred or not going because they didn’t have the money or the means to get there”
Hugo added that:
“The project has been successful because we had the drug available, had trained healthcare workers, had someone to get them to the facility and, crucially, the health facility had injectable artesunate.”