11 February 2011
Halving the burden of malaria by 2015 and ensuring that 80% of people with malaria receive treatment is among the health related targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Despite political momentum toward achieving this target, progress is slow and many with malaria (particularly in poor and rural communities in Africa) are still without access to effective treatment. Finding ways to improve access to anti-malarial treatment in Africa is essential to achieve the malaria related and other MDG targets. During its work in Chad, Sierra Leone and Mali in the period 2004 to 2008, Médecins Sans Frontières showed that it was possible to significantly improve access to effective malaria treatment through: i) the removal of health centre level user fees for essential healthcare for vulnerable population groups, ii) the introduction of free community based treatment for children using malaria village workers to diagnose and treat simple malaria in communities where geographical and financial barriers limited access to effective malaria care, iii) the improved diagnosis and treatment of malaria using rapid diagnosis tests and artemisinin based combination therapy, at both health facilities and in the community. This paper describes and discusses these strategies and their related impact.