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Scottish Government Grant enables development of health intervention project in Malawi

Scottish Government Grant enables development of health intervention project in Malawi

24 June 2013

Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) has secured a substantial grant from the Scottish Government for its first ever health intervention project in Blantyre, Malawi.

We launched Action Meningitis in Malawi in October 2012, using nearly 25 years of meningitis expertise for the benefit of children in Africa where the disease is little known and often misdiagnosed.

Funding of £131,400 from the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund means Action Meningitis can be expanded from its initial pilot phase of five township clinics in Malawi’s second largest city Blantyre, to clinics in remote, rural areas.

An estimated 1,000 people die of meningitis globally every day. The World Health Organization (WHO) say meningitis is a hidden disease in the developing world and more than half the babies and children who get meningitis in Malawi will die from the illness, while others are left with serious disabilities which the country is ill equipped to support.

Action Meningitis was developed following MRF funded research which suggested that delayed diagnosis and treatment at hospital is a driving factor for death from bacterial meningitis and other severe illnesses in Malawi, where the fatality rate for children with meningitis is over 50%. The research also found that meningitis is regularly mistaken for malaria at both community and primary care level. Given the rapid onset of meningitis and other severe childhood illnesses, urgent hospital treatment is vital.

We are working in partnership with the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre and D-tree International to introduce a triage system using mobile phone technology with traffic lights to speed up and track hospital referrals to QECH.

Action Meningitis is teaching health workers methods of triage, using the WHO Emergency Triage Assessment and Treatment (ETAT) system, so that meningitis and other life threatening diseases can be identified and treated far more rapidly, with a consequent improvement in survival rates. To date over 40,000 children have been triaged in the region.

Radio has been used to raise awareness of meningitis within villages, to address health-related social issues and to encourage early treatment seeking for sick children. Community theatre will also be used in the next phase of the project. Ambibikes have also been provided in some of the villages around Blantyre so the seriously ill can be transported quickly to clinics.

Mphasto Cheonga from Mpemba knows too well about the need to be treated quickly and the devastating effects of meningitis, he said: “My daughter Edith was two years old when she became sick. We rushed her to the nearest health centre where they treated her for malaria instead of meningitis – even though the test showed she didn’t have malaria. Two days later she was referred to hospital where she ended up having major surgery and staying for 10 days. An improvement is needed here in Malawi in recognising severe illness early, because of the delays she can no longer see or hear and one side of her is paralysed but at least she is alive.”

Mary Millar, Manager of Meningitis Research Foundation in Scotland said: “We are so grateful to the Scottish Government Malawi Development Programme for allowing us to expand our Action Meningitis in Blantyre. Meningitis is a problem all over the world, no matter where you live, some issues are the same. This project is the culmination of our research throughout the world, made possible by MRF’s dedicated supporters. Our success in promoting early recognition and swift treatment has brought about improvements in Scotland over the past 20 years. With this track record, our invaluable partners who are accustomed to working in Malawi and this funding we hope to make a huge difference to people living in Blantyre.”

International Development Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Meningitis destroys the lives of too many children in Malawi. The approach used by Action Meningitis has been proven to increase survival rates and I am delighted to support this project through the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund. I look forward to hearing how Meningitis Research Foundation is making a difference to the health of children in Blantyre and the surrounding districts.”

To find out more about Action Meningitis visit the website: www.meningitis.org/action-meningitis

 

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