Vencer a la malaria en el embarazo

Defeating Malaria in Pregnancy


[By Catherine Ndungu, Elaine Roman and Augustine Ngindu (Jphiego)]

Pregnant women, along with children under 5, are most vulnerable to malariaAfter suffering four consecutive miscarriages due to malaria-related complications, Ann Walela had lost all hope of ever having another child. “My husband and I were devastated and the miscarriages put a lot of pressure on our marriage,” she says.

When Walela learned she was pregnant again, she felt joy and fear in equal measure. She was hopeful about the possibility of giving her only child a brother or sister, but worried that she would lose the baby yet again.

Then she met Benedict Juma, one of 382 community health volunteers working with the U. S. Agency for International Development-funded Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) in Bungoma County, Western Kenya. MCSP is working in Kenya and 24 other countries to end preventable maternal and child deaths.

Ann Walela plays with her 6-month-old son, Daniel, at the Jhpiego-supported Mechimeru model health facility in Western Kenya. Photo: Catherine Ndungu/Jhpiego

Juma’s advice on key interventions to prevent malaria in pregnancy—including provision of Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnancy (IPTp) and importance of sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN)—resulted in a safe and healthy delivery for Walela. Her son Daniel is now six months old. “It was such a beautiful pregnancy. Apart from fatigue and the usual nausea, I had no complications at all,” said the 31-year-old mother.

The Net Effect

An estimated 15 million pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa did not receive a single dose of IPTp in 2013Juma advised Walela on the importance of sleeping under an ITN and starting IPTp early in her second trimester, and referred her for an antenatal visit at the nearby Mechimeru model health facility. During her first visit at eight weeks, Walela was given an ITN and shown how to use it. In subsequent visits from the 16th week of pregnancy leading up to delivery, she received IPTp to prevent malaria. At the facility, Walela also received advice on how to prevent malaria and seek treatment for herself and her family.

Ann Walela sits with community health volunteer Benedict Juma and discusses her son’s progress. Photo: Catherine Ndungu/Jhpiego

Walela’s story highlights the profound importance of IPTp treatment, in addition to sleeping under an ITN, for pregnant women, who, along with children under 5, are most vulnerable to malaria. An estimated 15 million pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa did not receive a single dose of IPTp in 2013. Like Walela, many of these mothers lost their babies.

For more than a decade, Jhpiego has worked to expand IPTp treatment across malaria-burdened countries. In 2014 alone, Jhpiego programs have contributed to more than 872,000 women in 12 countries receiving two doses of IPTp.

Increasing IPTp Coverage

IPTp is a cost-effective, high-quality intervention that saves lives. However, in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where this intervention in combination with ITN use is most important, coverage is very low. Recently, Roll Back Malaria (RBM) issued the RBM Global Call to Action to Increase National Coverage of IPTp for Women at Risk of Malaria in Pregnancy. It highlights the importance of all stakeholders taking action now to ensure that country policies are up-to-date and reflect the World Health Organization’s 2012 policy update for IPTp. The Call to Action accelerates efforts to expand activities to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 before the end of 2015, and will support future efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Jhpiego stands committed to support the actions outlined in the RBM Call to Action and continue the fight to increase IPTp coverage and improve the health of mothers and their babies.

You can take immediate action to expand preventive treatment to more pregnant women. Read RBM’s Global Call to Action and find out what you can do!

From trained health workers like Juma, to researchers, civil society members and the donor community, everyone has a role to play in ensuring that Walela and other women around the world receive the care they need to have a healthy, thriving child.

Learn More

Read Roll Back Malaria’s 2015 Global Call to Action.

Read more about Jhpiego’s ongoing efforts to Defeat Malaria

[This entry is part of the #DefeatMalaria World Malaria Day 2015 blog series]