February 03, 2013

MSF is working to treat and prevent tropical diseases, says Estrella Lasry, MSF Tropical Medicine Advisor. 

Mali 2012 © Estrella Lasry/MSF

A child in Mali receives antimalarial treatment as part of an MSF pilot project for the preventive treatment of malaria.

Estrella Lasry is an MSF Tropical Medicine Advisor. 

In 2012, we did a big intervention for malaria in Mali and Chad, where it’s the highest cause of morbidity, and usually mortality, in children under five. This work, which is called seasonal malaria chemoprevention, was new for MSF, and it was the first time it was done at this scale outside research conditions. We provided prophylaxis to around 160,000 children under five in Mali and another 10,000 in Chad to prevent them from contracting malaria during the period of highest transmission. Results showed more than a two-thirds drop in simple malaria cases and a significant drop in severe malaria in the weeks that followed. We saw malnutrition levels go down, too, an important, unexpected outcome.

We’re going to develop this preventive intervention further in 2013, widening the areas where we do it and adding interventions for other diseases to improve child health. The roll-out is at community level, which helps us achieve high coverage.

Another relatively new thing is the launch of an intervention on schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that can damage several organs, in Madagascar. We have experience treating schistosomiasis, but not in areas where it’s a major public health concern, as it is in Madagascar, which requires us to combine preventive and curative strategies.

We’ll help the Ministry of Health with mass drug administrations. We’ll also further develop protocols in hospitals to treat advanced or chronic cases of the disease, which will give us new insights on dealing with severe cases of liver and urinary dysfunction brought on by the disease. Hopefully we can introduce ultrasound, too, as part of the diagnostics, and we’ll also start preventative campaigns, working with the local communities to develop a sustainable strategy.