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95% Reduction in Malaria Cases in Guatemala

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-10-17 - Reductions in malaria have been recorded in two of the most malaria endemic municipalities in Guatemala thanks to the work of LEPRA Health in Action. For further information pertaining to this article contact: LEPRA Health in Action.

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LEPRA Health in Action reports 95% reduction in malaria cases, Guatemala.

At a time when attention has been refocused on the problem of malaria following the announcement that Cheryl Cole has been diagnosed with the disease, 95% reductions in malaria have been recorded in two of the most malaria endemic municipalities in Guatemala thanks to the work of LEPRA Health in Action.

Guatemala has the highest incidence of Malaria in Central America. According to Nazma Kabir, Programs Director for the charity, who recently returned from the region, "When we began this project in 2005 the areas in question were two of the most malaria endemic in Guatemala. Now as a result of our program many of the communities recorded zero cases in 2009."

The number of new malaria cases in the project area has been reduced from 2171 in 2007 to just 102 in 2009 (5% of total in 2007). The charity attributes success of this project to the unique approach taken to involving local communities and mobilizing them to take action in efforts to combat this disease.

"The traditional approaches to controlling malaria by providing bed nets, ensuring laboratory testing facilities are available and providing funds to improve government health infrastructure are just not enough. We took an approach which also involved communities from the very outset and this is where we achieved success."

This 'social mobilization' was a massive undertaking involving training government health staff and traditional birth attendants and then training them as trainers for community groups and volunteers. Together they are responsible for collecting and testing blood where labs are available. They are also responsible for cleaning mosquito breeding sites in ponds and the general environment. "At last communities are able to control the spread of malaria themselves which has the reductions in malaria cases we are seeing. 400 traditional birth attendants are now trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease in pregnant women and children under 5, two of the most vulnerable groups"

The project focuses on 252 rural indigenous communities in Ixcan and Fray Bartolome de las Casas, benefiting more than 100,000 indigenous people. 60% of the total population of Guatemala is made up of indigenous people with 75% of these living in poverty. Malaria has been described as first and foremost a disease of poverty most notably by Nobel prize winning economist Jeffrey Sachs.

LEPRA Health in Action, which is based in Colchester focuses its efforts on fighting diseases of poverty in poor communities around the world. Like leprosy, the disease most often associated with LEPRA, malaria is an ancient disease. Annual deaths from malaria worldwide are around 850,000 with the majority of these being women and children under 5 years old.

Useful facts:

Guatemala is cited as having the highest annual incidence of malaria in Central America (National Malaria Program, Guatemala) and in 2005 almost half of the registered malaria cases in Central America where in Guatemala (Pan American Health Organization)

Although infant and child mortality has been steadily decreasing throughout Latin America over the last four decades, child mortality is still 70 per cent higher among indigenous children.

Indigenous peoples' poverty rates are 2.8 times higher than the rest of the population in Guatemala.

There is a 13 year gap in years of life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Guatemala (3 points above from the 2009 UN Report State of the World's Indigenous Peoples)

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