World Malaria Day: Success in Battle against Malaria in Iran

Apr 25, 2013

 Sadegh testing one of the Afghan construction workers with RDT kits ©Vina Barahman

Torah was travelling west into Iran – a construction worker in search of a new job and better prospects.  It was his second day on the move.  That was then the fever and chills hit him.  Then came the excruciating pain – the first signs of malaria.  At first, he didn’t know what had hit him.  But as his condition worsened, he sought help.

Passing through Jask district in Hormozgan province in the south of Iran, he asked passersby and was referred by the locals to Sadegh, a volunteer who had been trained to deal with malaria symptoms using RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test) kits.  Torah was in bad shape.  He had contracted falciparum malaria.  The disease was at an advanced stage, and, by the time he had reached Sadegh, he had only two “golden hours” left to receive treatment.

Sadegh immediately took Torah to the nearest Health House, one of 584 now active in Hormozgan province that have been provided with health products with the support of UNDP and the Global Fund.  He was instantly injected with Artesunate and was sent to the closest available hospital to receive intensive care.  Following several follow-up tests over a 3-week period he recovered from the infection.

“I thought I was going to die when they told me it is the most dangerous type of Malaria,” said Torah.  In reality, had he been bitten 10 years earlier, when RDT kits and special treatment were not as accessible, it is unlikely Torah would have survived.

In case of malaria epidemics, in addition to dispensing the essential medicine, Rapid Response Teams (RRT) established with support of  the UNDP-Global Fund regularly distribute bed nets and spray outdoor and indoor spaces to kill infected insects, including malaria mosquitoes.

 a younger villager who has volunteered to work with malaria project ©vina barahman

Background: Since the Malaria project started in 2008, funded by Global Fund, the risk of contracting malaria has declined substantially in Hormozgan province.  The project began with a goal of eliminating local cases of malaria by 2016.  In less than 5 years, the number of positive malaria cases in the province decreased from 6,218 in 2007 to 141 in 2012, with a few local Vivax malaria cases.  Last year, no local falciparum cases of malaria were reported; a great step toward achievement of MDG6 .

Since that time, UNDP has worked closely with Iran’s Center for Disease Control to provide knowledge, expertise and logistical support in countering malaria in Hormuzgan and other malaria-stricken areas of Iran.  The project has in fact achieved its goals earlier than expected.  In 2012, 76 percent of the malaria cases reported in Hormozgan were reported not among local residents, but among immigrant workers coming from either Pakistan or Afghanistan. 

The response is now driven by technical cooperation between the Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services , the Ministry of Health and UNDP.  At ground level, there are three emergency sites and six Rapid Response Teams in operation.  At present, RDT kits are available in every health house at all times – 24/7.  This makes it possible to diagnose malaria quickly.  Families across 531 villages have access to bed nets.

“Now most villages have Health houses, in which you can find medicine to treat malaria. Even in remote villages that do not have health houses, some locals like me have volunteered to be trained. They know how to use RDT kits. They distribute bed nets and teach the villagers how to install them,” says Sadegh.

Today in Hormozgan province, similar to other parts of the country, diagnostic and treatment services for malaria  are provided free of charge for all, regardless of nationality.

By: Vina Barahman

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