World Malaria Day: Reducing women's vulnerability in Southern Sudan

25 April, Juba – World Malaria Day, 25 April, is a chance to call attention to the global efforts to control this life-threatening disease transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Malaria infects nearly one quarter billion people every year, causing nearly one million deaths. However, the disease can be prevented – and cured.

In Southern Sudan, malaria has a high and continued incidence, affecting up to 36 per cent of the population. The severe lack of health infrastructure, coupled with extreme climatic factors and poor public health education, has had profound implications on the wellbeing of communities. UNDP, together the World Health Organization, Malaria Consortium and World Vision among others, has been responding to this reality by scaling up malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment – especially for pregnant women who are particularly vulnerable. The activities are funded by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Pregnancy reduces women’s immunity to malaria, also increasing chances of severe anaemia, spontaneous abortion, stillbirth and even death. For the unborn child, maternal malaria increases the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight – a leading cause of child mortality. The problem has long been neglected, but new approaches, such as intermittent preventative treatment using antimalarial drugs, offer hope for reducing the burden of malaria in pregnancy and improving the health of mothers and newborns.

UNDP’s Malaria Control Programme, which came to a formal close last month, focused on scaling up malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment as well as on producing up-to-date statistical information on the disease to be used by the Ministry of Health and other organizations. “The Programme’s interventions were hugely successful,” explains Gerard Van Mourik, UNDP’s Global Fund Coordinator. “Well over 700,000 long lasting insecticide-treated nets were distributed to target populations across Southern Sudan and almost 83,000 pregnant women were given intermittent preventative malaria treatment.” In addition, thousands of health care personnel were trained to help the population better prevent and respond to the epidemic.

Martha’s story

In 2009, UNDP’s Malaria Control Programme helped establish a Primary Health Care Unit in Wouwou, Lakes State. Working with the community-based organization Arkangelo Ali Association, UNDP made the centre operational while at the same time distributing intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) to community members – particularly pregnant women.

“I no longer have to walk long distances to access treatment at Mapuordit,” said Martha, one of the programme beneficiaries.

Martha also reported a reduced number of malaria cases in her family.

UNDP’s next Global Fund-resourced project is set to begin in June 2010 and will focus on strengthening health systems in Southern Sudan, with construction and renovations of teaching institutions, training workshops, laboratories, blood banks, antenatal clinics, and community centers.

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to dramatically increase resources to fight three of the world's most devastating diseases, and to direct those resources to areas of greatest need. UNDP has been the principle recipient of Global Fund resources since 2004 and currently manages five projects on behalf of the Government of Southern Sudan.

UNDP Southern Sudan programme

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