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Armed groups aid the spread of malaria in Central African Republic

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With insecurity and political instability come the harbingers of disease and death. Malaria in northwest Central African Republic has almost doubled due largely to the disruptive situation caused by armed group operating in that nation's north.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The medical charity group Medecins Sans Frontieres reports treating 36,910 cases of malaria in Boguila, a region 30 miles from the border the country shares with Chad. In the months between January and June this year, there were only 19,498 malaria cases the same time last year.

"Insecurity has forced people to leave their houses in search of safety in the bush, where stagnant water on sorghum and cassava fields provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes," the MSF head of mission in CAR, Ellen Van Der Velden says.

"Unfortunately, they don't take the bare necessities with them, including mosquito nets," Van Der Velden adds.

The nation has remained volatile ever since the Seleka, a group of five rebel units, overthrew the government in a military coup in March. French President Francois Hollande has described the current situation in CAR as "very grave."

More than 240,000 people have been displaced, half of them children - the group most at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne disease, according to official sources.

Officially, malaria is believed to be the cause of 54 percent of the deaths of children younger than five years of age.

"If you can't do anything else in CAR, then just treat the malaria," Van Der Velden says.

The one bright spot to the current crisis is the increased use of rapid case identification using the 'PECADOM approach' (Prise En Charge A Domicile).The technique has helped increase the number of people tested and treated for malaria, especially among displaced populations.

According to Helle Garro, CAR program manager for the Mentor Initiative, the village-based approach has trained 80 "malaria agents," who have set up diagnostic desks in their homes. Malaria is endemic and people lack the time and means to get to health facilities, Garro says.

"Our malaria agents do rapid diagnostic tests as soon as they are presented with a child with high fever. If the results are positive, they treat using a free of charge artemesinin-based combination treatment, or in severe cases refer them to MSF supported hospitals," Garro says.

"In the past months, the 'malaria agent' approach has proved to be even more critical" as the agents have been able to move with people displaced by the insecurity so that they can continue testing and treating pregnant women and children, she said.

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