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A Global Call to Speed Up and Scale Up Malaria Preventive Therapy Among Pregnant Women

This year’s World Malaria Report, recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO), conveys the remarkable gains that the global community has achieved in the fight against malaria over the last two decades. Worldwide deaths due to malaria fell by 60% from 2000 to 2019. However, the report underscores the trend of the last several years which shows that high burden countries are losing ground. In 2017, WHO warned about this stalled progress and then launched the “high burden to high impact” response in 2018 to reignite progress.

One of the report’s six key messages notes the heavy toll that malaria continues to take on pregnant women and children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO estimates that over 11 million pregnant women living in African countries with moderate-to-high transmission were infected with malaria in 2019. Consequently, an estimated 822,000 children in these countries were born with a low birth weight.

To prevent malaria among eligible African pregnant women, the WHO recommends three or more doses of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with the quality-assured medicine sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP). While significant strides have been made in IPTp coverage since 2010, just over a third (34%) of pregnant women in 33 African countries received the recommended three or more doses of IPTp-SP in 2019. There remains much room for improvement.

In light of the substantial risk that malaria infection poses to pregnant women, their fetuses, and their newborn babies, the global health community is doubling down on efforts to promote IPTp coverage. During early October, with support from PMI Impact Malaria, the RBM Partnership’s Malaria in Pregnancy (MIP) Working Group (WG) launched its global advocacy campaign to speed up and scale up coverage of IPTp. Through this campaign, the MIPWG is calling on the malaria, maternal, and child health communities to multiply their efforts to improve IPTp coverage. A prelude to the campaign began in spring of 2020 with digital campaigns for International Women’s Day and World Malaria Day, which included a MIP advocacy video that PMI Impact Malaria produced and an infographic highlighting the critical role of IPTp in maternal and newborn health.

Pregnant Boni Awa takes IPTp-SP at Mouyassue Rural Health Center in Côte d'Ivoire. Credit: Mwangi Kirubi, PMI Impact Malaria

Today, the call to “speed up, scale up” IPTp coverage is especially crucial as the current COVID-19 pandemic threatens access to essential pregnancy care, risking the health of mother and baby. Key actions to prioritize IPTp coverage are outlined in the IPTp Call to Action statement.

PMI Impact Malaria continues to advance the prevention and treatment of MIP through implementation support and technical assistance in 11 countries and through secretariat and technical support to the MIPWG.

Please join us in our efforts to speed up, scale up IPTp!

Sources: World Malaria Report 2020 and PMI Impact Malaria’s MIP Page

Header Photo Caption: Pregnant Boni Awa takes IPTp-SP at Mouyassue Rural Health Center in Côte d'Ivoire. Photo Credit: Mwangi Kirubi, PMI Impact Malaria

Written by Kate Wolf, PMI Impact Malaria Technical Advisor, and Anne Bulchis, PMI Impact Malaria Communications Manager.

PMI Impact Malaria is led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with JhpiegoMedical Care Development International (MCDI), and UCSF.

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