Guinea Bissau offers free malaria testing and treatment to the public

Aug 19, 2015

Guinea Bissau rolls out free malaria testing to regions. (Photo: UNDP)

Bissau-Guineans now have access to free malaria testing and treatment in public health facilities through a ground-breaking partnership between the Guinea Bissau government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and other development partners.
Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the West African country, with a rate of 108 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organisation. With a population of 1.704 million people, Guinea Bissau has the 11th highest malaria mortality rate per capita in the world.  
Previously, only the rapid diagnosis of uncomplicated malaria was free in the country. But as of 25 May the additional free services cover the microscopy diagnosis and treatment of both uncomplicated and severe malaria. Other partners in the initiative are the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union.
More than 400,000 people are expected to benefit from the free malaria testing and treatment during the first year of the initiative’s implementation. 
 “Eliminating patient fees for malaria testing and treatment represents a significant social policy achievement,” says Mr. Gabriel Dava, UNDP Guinea Bissau Deputy Resident Representative of Programmes.  “By eliminating key economic barriers for accessing diagnosis and therapy for malaria, the government is enhancing its efforts to improve the health of the people in Guinea Bissau.” 
Guinea Bissau's decision to provide free malaria diagnosis and treatment will not only ensure access to quality drugs, but also help curb the use of ineffective counterfeits. With proper, free medication, it is also likely that more patients will finish their treatments, suffer from less severe symptoms, and recover faster.
With the Global Fund grant of 9.2 million Euros (approximately USD 10.2 million), UNDP is working to procure the needed medical supplies from WHO pre-qualified suppliers to ensure the quality of the products, and helping to facilitate the storage and distribution of tests and treatments. 
UNDP will also assist with monitoring and evaluation to ensure that health workers use national malaria diagnosis and treatment protocols correctly and that data is properly recorded and analysed.
Guinea Bissau’s strong commitment to the initiative, the increased health budget, and an effective allocation of the resources will help to guarantee the continuation of the initiative in the years to come. 
Further, free malaria testing and treatment, together with the successful mass distribution of mosquito nets campaign, will boost the country’s efforts to combat malaria and accelerate progress on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6, related to combatting HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

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