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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Malaria Initiative to Reach Marginalized Communities in Kenya

NORTH RIFT VALLEY, KENYA -- Malaria is the leading killer of children and pregnant women in Kenya, where poverty, poor prevention practices, costly care, and insufficient drug supplies have propelled the disease to devastating proportions.

Among rural and marginalized communities, the situation is particularly acute. In five districts of the North Rift Valley, where many members of the Pokot ethnic minority live, more than 400,000 cases of malaria were reported in 2008. Deaths due to malaria were as high as 19 percent, and as many as 70 percent of pregnant women lacked access to preventative and curative medications.

HealthRight International’s newly launched Partnership for the Prevention and Treatment of Malaria is working to change that, by launching an ambitious project to build local sustainable access to life-saving malaria prevention and treatment services – with a special focus on the needs of pregnant women and children, who are at highest risk.

“Over three years, we hope to reach more than 500,000 children, pregnant women, and people living in poverty or with HIV/AIDS who are most vulnerable to malaria,” said Jen Olson,  HealthRight’s Program Manager for Kenya.

The Partnership for the Prevention and Treatment of Malaria will build the capacity of the local community and health system to promote risk-reducing behaviors, improve service delivery, and increase access to insecticide-treated nets. Partners include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, Population Services International, the Kenya NGO Alliance Against Malaria, and private health facilities.

The program will promote malaria prevention and care-seeking behaviors by training community health workers, pharmacists, and others to spread prevention and care-seeking messages to patients and clients.

HealthRight will also award grants to  local organizations to design social behavioral change campaigns, utilizing local knowledge of customs and culture to have maximum impact.

HealthRight is also improving inventory control and updating data management systems at health care facilities. In high-risk districts such as West Pokot, which suffered two malaria epidemics in 2008, HealthRight is establishing surveillance systems and epidemic preparedness plans.

By improving the capacity of local partners to address the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of malaria, HealthRight is strengthening the health and human rights of one of Kenya’s most vulnerable populations.