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Fight Against Malaria 2020

No mother should have to lose her unborn baby to malaria

Photo credit: Malaria No More

Community Health Nurse, Rosemund Awumi examines pregnant patient, Sally Juwelatu, at Abokobi Health Centre, Accra, Ghana, who is taking part in the intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp) of malaria in pregnancy with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) programme. The drug decreases placental parasitaemia and improves birth outcomes. Currently, WHO recommends three or more doses of SP given during antenatal care (ANC), spaced one month apart after 16 weeks of gestation until delivery.

Before we had any malaria preventative treatment for pregnant women at the maternity clinic, we saw too many stillborn births and miscarriages, and it was heart-breaking. Preventative treatment of malaria in pregnancy is saving lives in Ghana; we hear from Rosemund Awumi, a Community Health Nurse for Maternity at Abokobi Health Centre, Accra.

“Since 2004 the situation has changed a lot.

“Supported by the Ghana Health Service and the NMCP [National Malaria Control Programme], we have been providing intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy, using sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine or IPTp-SP.

“This treatment is available for free across Ghana, it’s universal, and it is saving many lives. It really is making a huge difference in the community here.

In Ghana, universally available malaria treatment while pregnant is saving lives

“The first dose of SP is taken 16 weeks into pregnancy then three or more doses spaced one month apart until delivery.

“Essentially, the medicine reduces placental plasmodium parasitaemia and improves birth outcomes so, put simply, it helps to prevent mothers miscarrying or having to endure stillborn births.

“If a woman contracts malaria during pregnancy there is also a big risk of their developing baby being born with low birth weight, foetal anaemia, dangerously low immune systems and, in rare cases, sustained brain damage.

“As well as the SP therapy, as with any malaria prevention, we still recommend using ITNs [insecticide treated nets] and repellents.

“Another of our complementary activities to support malaria prevention is the seasonal destruction of mosquito breeding sites in the communities using insecticides.

“We can end malaria within a generation, this is one step further towards that mission”

“We are all striving for elimination, from one end of the country to the other. We know how destructive it is on every level.

“I do believe that it is feasible, at the rate of progress we are making and with real, long-term support from all sectors, not just health.

“The medical staff here are all very committed to what they are doing, and we work hand in hand with the community, every step of the way.

“We are more hopeful than ever that, if we keep fighting, we can beat our old opponent malaria for good one day.”

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