Pregnant women should receive preventive malaria treatment to reduce the risk of death

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MalariaPregnant women who suffer from malaria have a mortality rate of 50 per cent. The disease is deadly during pregnancy and is a major cause of prenatal mortality, low birth weight and maternal anemia in the country but it can be prevented by intermittent preventive treatment received during antenatal care.

“Pregnant women and unborn children are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria may suffer from learning impairments or brain damage,” said the Global Literacy Project, (GLP) a health charity organization working in Kibera, Nairobi.

It is one of the deadliest diseases globally, killing almost half a million people every year and in Kenya it accounts for 15 per cent of all out-patient attendance in the country's health facilities admissions.

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“One of the primary causes of the spread of malaria in the country is the pre-eminence of stagnant waste water, which is caused by ineffective drainages that run through the slum. The resultant pools of water provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well as other diseases such as Cholera and Typhoid,” said GLP.

During pregnancy, a woman’s immunity is reduced which makes her vulnerable to the disease, in fact research has that the second trimester has the highest rate of infection because their immunity has significantly reduced at that period.

“Pregnant women are three times more likely to suffer from severe disease as a result of malarial infection compared with their non-pregnant counterparts, and have a mortality rate from severe disease that approaches 50 per cent. In areas endemic for malaria, it is estimated that at least 25 per cent of pregnant women are infected with malaria and the second trimester appears to bring the highest rate of infection,” read a Malaria and Pregnancy: A Global Health Perspective study, published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal.

“The current prevention of malarial disease in pregnancy relies on 2 main strategies: providing pregnant women with insecticide-treated bed nets and intermittent presumptive treatment with anti-malarial medications.”

Indeed, in Kenya women can receive intermittent preventive treatment for the disease while pregnant during their antenatal care which is free in all public hospitals country wide as of last year.

Furthermore, the World Health Organization recently announced that will conduct trials of a new malaria vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in a bid to reduce the high prevalence of the disease .The chosen theme for this year is ‘a push for prevention’.

“We are very appreciative that GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that is developing the vaccine will provide this for free of charge for this pilot. It will be assessed as the complementary intervention in Africa that can be added to our existing tool box of proven preventive diagnostic and treatment measures,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director during the announcement on Monday.

Also, private companies such as Mortein Doom, have rolled out initiatives in a bid to educate the public on the on the need to use mosquito nets, proper environmental management such as draining stagnant water, clearing of long grass and the use of indoor sprays disease so as to reduce the risk of the disease.

“We have rolled out similar initiatives every year when we celebrate World Malaria Day. We believe that we can end Malaria for good if the public takes part in the fight against this killer disease,” said Sachin Varma, the Mortein Doom Country Manager.

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