• Abolishing user fees for children and pregnant women trebled uptake of malaria-related interventions in Kangaba, Mali.

      Ponsar, Frédérique; Van Herp, Michel; Zachariah, Rony; Gerard, Séco; Philips, Mit; Jouquet, Guillaume; Analysis and advocacy unit, Médecins sans Frontieres, Brussels Operational Centre, Brussels, Belgium. fredponsar@hotmail.com (2011-11)
      Malaria is the most common cause of morbidity and mortality in children under 5 in Mali. Health centres provide primary care, including malaria treatment, under a system of cost recovery. In 2005, Médecins sans Frontieres (MSF) started supporting health centres in Kangaba with the provision of rapid malaria diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapy. Initially MSF subsidized malaria tests and drugs to reduce the overall cost for patients. In a second phase, MSF abolished fees for all children under 5 irrespective of their illness and for pregnant women with fever. This second phase was associated with a trebling of both primary health care utilization and malaria treatment coverage for these groups. MSF's experience in Mali suggests that removing user fees for vulnerable groups significantly improves utilization and coverage of essential health services, including for malaria interventions. This effect is far more marked than simply subsidizing or providing malaria drugs and diagnostic tests free of charge. Following the free care strategy, utilization of services increased significantly and under-5 mortality was reduced. Fee removal also allowed for more efficient use of existing resources, reducing average cost per patient treated. These results are particularly relevant for the context of Mali and other countries with ambitious malaria treatment coverage objectives, in accordance with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This article questions the effectiveness of the current national policy, and the effectiveness of reducing the cost of drugs only (i.e. partial subsidies) or providing malaria tests and drugs free for under-5s, without abolishing other related fees. National and international budgets, in particular those that target health systems strengthening, could be used to complement existing subsidies and be directed towards effective abolition of user fees. This would contribute to increasing the impact of interventions on population health and, in turn, the effectiveness of aid.
    • Timely detection of meningococcal meningitis epidemics in Africa.

      Lewis, R; Nathan, N; Diarra, L; Belanger, F; Paquet, C; Epicentre, 8 rue Saint-Sabin, 75011, Paris, France. LewisR@who.imul.com (Elsevier, 2001-07-28)
      BACKGROUND: Epidemics of meningococcal disease in Africa are commonly detected too late to prevent many cases. We assessed weekly meningitis incidence as a tool to detect epidemics in time to implement mass vaccination. METHODS: Meningitis incidence for 41 subdistricts in Mali was determined from cases recorded in health centres (1989-98) and from surveillance data (1996-98). For incidence thresholds of 5 to 20 cases per 100000 inhabitants per week, we calculated sensitivity and specificity for detecting epidemics, and determined the time lapse between threshold and epidemic peak. FINDINGS: We recorded 9084 meningitis cases. Clinic-based weekly incidence of 5 and 10 cases per 100000 inhabitants detected all meningitis epidemics (sensitivity 100%, 95% CI 93-100), with median threshold-to-peak time of 5 and 3 weeks. Under-reporting reduced sensitivity: only surveillance thresholds of 5 or 7 cases per 100000 inhabitants per week detected all epidemics. Crossing the lower threshold before the 10th calendar week doubled epidemic risk relative to crossing it later (relative risk 2.1, 95% CI 1.4-3.2). At 10 cases per 100000 inhabitants per week, specificity for outbreak prediction was 88%, 95% CI 83-91). For populations under 30000, 3 to 5 cases in one or two weeks predicted epidemics with 85% to 97% specificity. INTERPRETATION: Low meningitis thresholds improve timely detection of epidemics. Ten cases per 100000 inhabitants per week in one area confirm epidemic activity in a region, with few false alarms. An alert threshold of 5 cases per 100000 inhabitants per week allows time to investigate, prepare for an epidemic, and initiate mass vaccination where appropriate. For populations under 30000, the alert threshold is two cases in a week. High quality surveillance is essential.
    • Two-Year Scale-Up of Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention Reduced Malaria Morbidity among Children in the Health District of Koutiala, Mali.

      Maiga, H; Gaudart, J; Sagara, I; Diarra, M; Bamadio, A; Djimde, M; Coumare, S; Sangare, B; Dicko, Y; Tembely, A; et al. (MDPI, 2020-09-11)
      Background: Previous controlled studies demonstrated seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) reduces malaria morbidity by >80% in children aged 3-59 months. Here, we assessed malaria morbidity after large-scale SMC implementation during a pilot campaign in the health district of Koutiala, Mali. Methods: Starting in August 2012, children received three rounds of SMC with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) and amodiaquine (AQ). From July 2013 onward, children received four rounds of SMC. Prevalence of malaria infection, clinical malaria and anemia were assessed during two cross-sectional surveys conducted in August 2012 and June 2014. Investigations involved 20 randomly selected clusters in 2012 against 10 clusters in 2014. Results: Overall, 662 children were included in 2012, and 670 in 2014. Children in 2014 versus those surveyed in 2012 showed reduced proportions of malaria infection (12.4% in 2014 versus 28.7% in 2012 (p = 0.001)), clinical malaria (0.3% versus 4.2%, respectively (p < 0.001)), and anemia (50.1% versus 67.4%, respectively (p = 0.001)). A propensity score approach that accounts for environmental differences showed that SMC conveyed a significant protective effect against malaria infection (IR = 0.01, 95% CI (0.0001; 0.09), clinical malaria (OR = 0.25, 95% CI (0.06; 0.85)), and hemoglobin concentration (β = 1.3, 95% CI (0.69; 1.96)) in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Conclusion: SMC significantly reduced frequency of malaria infection, clinical malaria and anemia two years after SMC scale-up in Koutiala.