Shortage of essential drugs amid crisis in Ivory Coast
Patrick Slavin, UNICEF
KANI, Ivory Coast (February 5, 2011) – Malaria is the leading cause of mortality among children under the age of 5 in this West African nation, and UNICEF is concerned that stocks of essential drugs to treat the deadly disease are in danger of running out in 2 to 4 weeks.
"We already have reports that some district pharmacies have run out of anti-malarial drugs," said UNICEF Representative in Ivory Coast Agostino Paganini. "The shortage could affect other essential drugs soon. If we don't act quickly to dispatch these drugs, patients could be forced to stop treatments that doctors and nurses prescribe, including basic antibiotics."
The concerns about shortages have emerged in the context of political uncertainty here, part of a national crisis that has gripped Ivory Coast since elections were held in late November.
Treatment for malaria cases
In Kani, where farmers dry sheets of cocoa beans and tap rubber trees, the local hospital serves a population of 22,000. In August of last year, a total of 153 children aged 5 and younger were treated at the hospital, according to Chief Resident Dr. Alizata Kabore.
Out of these cases, 131 children were diagnosed with malaria and were prescribed dosages of artesunate and amodiaquine, which are used to treat the disease.
After examining Kouadio Kouadio, 6, at the Kani hospital, Dr. Kabore said the boy likely had malaria and bronchitis, and was suffering from malnutrition. "We ordered two boxes of artesunate and amodiaquine from the district pharmacy in Seguela, but we were only allocated one," added Dr. Kabore.
Because of support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as UNICEF and the World Health Organization, children under 5 receive free anti-malarial drugs in Ivory Coast.
Help from UNICEF and partners
"The public health system is struggling to function and meet the needs of patients," said UNICEF Ivory Coast Health Specialist Dr. Eli Ramamonjisoa. "State pharmacies in northern and western regions of the country, which supply hospitals and clinics, are beginning to run out of essential medicines. Supplies of ARVs – to treat HIV/AIDS positive patients and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus – began to reach parts of Ivory Coast last week, thanks to the work of UNICEF."
The Global Fund has provided 6 million insecticide-treated nets to Ivory Coast to protect people from malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. UNICEF and its partners are planning to distribute the nets to the population as soon as possible, so that children do not suffer from the fallout of the country's political crisis.