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Integrating Malnutrition Screening with SMC to Reach More Children Faster

“A fantastic story of success and progress,” is how Dr. Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO World Malaria Programme, described the history of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) earlier this week during a PSI-hosted webinar on new country learnings for getting the most from SMC.

PMI Impact Malaria (IM) presented on integrating malnutrition screening into Niger’s SMC campaign, and presenters from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Malaria Consortium spoke about using digital tools to optimize SMC delivery in Benin and successful SMC COVID-19 adaptations in Nigeria, respectively.

(For background information about SMC, click here. To learn about Mali’s IM-supported 2020 SMC campaign, visit this page.)

As Dr. Alonso said during his opening remarks, “SMC is one of the highlights of our malaria global effort. It is a fantastic example of the translation from research into policy into application and scalability, and reaching millions of children in one of the areas of the world – in fact, the area of the world – where under-five mortality is highest and where malaria is a main contributor to that mortality.”

To preserve this success, he noted that we must continuously adapt SMC to increase its impact and save even more lives.

With IM’s support, health authorities in Niger adapted SMC to local needs by integrating malnutrition screening into its SMC campaign. From July to October each year, the country experiences heavy rainfall, high malaria incidence, and an increase in severe acute malnutrition. Not only do these health issues peak during the same period, but both SMC and malnutrition screening target children under the age of five. Given the overlap, Niger chose to host one campaign for both health areas rather than two separate campaigns.

In 2019, Niger reached more than 4 million children with antimalarials through SMC and screened almost the same number of children for malnutrition, with the numbers differing slightly because children are eligible for SMC starting at three months of age but not eligible for malnutrition screening until six months of age. Of the almost 4 million children screened, more than 500,000 were found to be malnourished and were referred to a treatment center. Data from Niger’s ongoing 2020 SMC campaign suggest this year’s numbers will be comparable.

By coupling SMC with malnutrition screening, more children can be reached faster. This integrated approach also has the added value of strengthening collaboration between the national malaria control program and the nutrition department, as well as pooling financial, human, and material resources to reduce costs and save time. However, challenges include the complexities of planning, of communicating two messages clearly, and of ensuring commodity availability to respond to all cases of malnutrition.

To learn more about SMC and the benefits and challenges of integrating other interventions into SMC campaigns, read IM’s SMC Learning Brief (with the French version available here.)

A recording of the webinar can be found here.

Header photo caption: A community health worker screens a child for malnutrition during Niger’s 2020 SMC campaign.

Written by Katherine Kemp, PMI Impact Malaria Communications Coordinator. Based on a presentation by Maman Bacharou Badamassi, SMC Technical Advisor, PMI Impact Malaria Niger. Contributions from 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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