September 19, 2008

Uganda: Government to Subsidize Malaria Treatment

Text of report by Nairobi-based online news service of UN regional information network IRIN on 19 September

Kampala, 19 September 2008: The Ugandan government is to subsidize the most effective form of malaria treatment sold in the private sector. Although such treatment, Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), is available free in public clinics, for most Ugandans, the first port of call in times of sickness is the local pharmacy.

With the help of donors, the drugs will be available during a pilot project in some malaria-endemic parts of the country at 200 Ugandan shillings (about 12 US cents) for children and 800 shillings (48c) for adults.

Without the subsidy, such drugs can typically cost up to 20,000 shillings (12 dollars) per treatment.

The pilot project is being carried out by the Ministry of Health and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), which describes itself as a "not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing the burden of malaria in disease-endemic countries by discovering, developing and delivering new affordable anti-malarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships".

"If this works it will inform an important global decision for all countries that are malaria-endemic," said Chris Hentschel, MMV's president.

"The issue here is affordability of drugs that will cure malaria. No parent should ever have to choose between food and medicine for their children," he said.

Although the World Health Organization recommended in 2001 that ACT be used as the primary treatment for uncomplicated malaria, the treatment is beyond the reach of millions of people who are struck by the disease every year. About 353 Ugandans die every day from malaria, mostly children and pregnant women.

Uganda's Minister for Primary Healthcare, Emmanuel Otaala, said the initiative would ensure that half those infected with malaria would use ACT, replacing other treatments that although widely available are ineffective because malaria parasites have become resistant.

"We need to have anti-malarials as close to homes as possible so as to increase access to ACTs within 24 hours," said Otaala.

"I am confident that with this project, we will achieve great milestones in malaria control," said Sam Zaramba, director-general at the Ministry of Health.

Originally published by UN Integrated Regional Information Network, Nairobi, in English 19 Sep 08.

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