Bangui, Central Africa Republic (C.A.R) has some of the highest malaria rates for a major city in the world with 64% of people with fever testing positive for malaria.

Despite these grim statistics, the Ministry of Health in C.A.R, with support from the Global Fund and partners including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the C.A.R. Red Cross are making major strides in the fight to address this deadly disease.

“Despite the ongoing conflict which has resulted in nearly one million people being displaced internally or refugees in border countries, C.A.R. has continued to implement an ambitious malaria programme. In the last twelve months more than 1.2 million LLINs have been distributed protecting more than 2 million people. In addition, more than 570,000 artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been  distributed to treat malaria” says Jason Peat, manager of the global malaria programme at the IFRC’s headquarters in Geneva.

The last mile is always the hardest in areas where malaria is endemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The Ministry of Health with the support of partners including the Global Fund and the Red Cross is working on getting commodities to address malaria including rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and three-day treatments of ACTs to all health facilities in C.A.R.”  says Dr. Moyen Méthode, National Malaria Control Programme Director with the Ministry of Health in C.A.R.

"The highest level of mortality is at about nine months of age, so caregivers need to be aware that a clock is ticking as soon as the symptoms of malaria present  and  that they need to get their child to health services as quickly as possible," says Dr. Méthode.

Accessing health services is not an easy task at the best of times  in stable environments and it is made even more difficult in C.A.R. by the ongoing conflict. "The main barriers to access health services during peace time are poverty and distance. In C.A.R. the ongoing conflict has led to most health facilities being looted, qualified staff fleeing for their lives and many populations enclaved or living in the forest with no access to health services” says Mr. Peat. The Red Cross Red Crescent, through its network of volunteers, works to extend the reach of health services and bring prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment closer to the most vulnerable members of the population.

Support from IFRC and partners has also seen C.A.R.’s fragile health system move a disease reporting system on the brink of collapse to a cell phone based reporting system that is currently achieving 75% per cent of on time and complete reporting on a monthly basis. While the project is still ongoing, results so far have shown a substantial improvement in coverage and quality of services leading to substantial reduction of mortality and morbidity in the vulnerable population.

The success in C.A.R. has not gone unnoticed. In January 2015 the African Leader Malaria Alliance (ALMA) awarded C.A.R. the 2015 ALMA Award for Excellence in Implementation of Vector (malaria mosquito) Control.

The Red Cross Red Crescent is committed to giving more emphasis to a community led approach to malaria. Even in the most remote areas, providing free, effective malaria diagnosis, care and treatment through trained community based volunteers can alleviate the burden malaria places on the health system and is key to defeating this disease.