The article below was contributed by journalist Hope Mafaranga (Uganda) as part of the SjCOOP project in collaboration with MalariaWorld.
The government of Uganda wants people to use Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) for treating malaria but the treatment is too expensive and there’s not enough available of this medicine.
Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda killing 70,000 to 110,000 people per year, mostly pregnant women and children below five years.
The World Health Organization strongly recommends to use Artemisinin Combination therapy (ACT), as a second line treatment after oral chloroquine fails to heal malaria.
Dr. Richard Ndyomugyenyi, Director of the malaria control program in the Ministry of Health said the Government of Uganda switched to ACT in 2005 after the malaria parasite became resistant to chloroquine.
But the problem is that ACT is very expensive. One dose costs between seven and twelve US dollars. Most people in rural areas, where malaria is the most severe, cannot afford this treatment. Thirteen percent lives on less than a dollar per day.
And if they can afford, the availability is a big problem. Twenty percent of the public health clinics doesn’t have ACT. Eighty percent has, but run out of supply quickly in the malarious months of October, November and December.
The Ministry of Health has received funds since 2007 but not enough to handle the demand, Ndyomugyenyi says. Due to this problem people are forced to seek medical ACT-treatment from private organisations - which is even more expensive - or use alternative drugs like chloroquine. That’s a pity because chloroquine is not the best option for treating malaria says Ndyomugyenyi. “When not mixed in the right proportions, chloroquine can be deadly. Due to poor training of lower level health workers to administer it through injections, we are moving away from that medicine. We prefer ACT-injections’.
The government lobbies now to get more funds for this medicine. ‘ACT is thirty times more effective than chloroquine and is currently the only way to beat severe malaria in our country.’