When people can’t afford food – what of malaria treatment?

crs-food-crisis-urban-poor.jpgCatholic Relief Services describes the life of Rasmané, a day laborer in Burkina Faso, who works at “a plastic chair factory, where he makes about $37 a month. This won’t go far for Rasmané, his four kids, his mother and wife. That’s why they eat baobab leaves and cheap millet (see photo by Lane Hartill/CRS). A sack of rice that would last a few weeks costs about $55.”  According to CRS, “Some 75 percent of people living in or near Burkina’s major cities don’t have enough food to eat.”

Staple food prices have more than doubled. “Rasmané says he has never seen food prices jump like this. A portion of corn last year was 50 cents. Now, it’s $1.15. A portion of millet was 55 cents. Now it’s $1.25. For someone who doesn’t know from one day to the next if he will work, these price swings sting.” CRS notes the contrast: “Residents of Burkina Faso spend about 76 percent of their monthly income on food. Americans, on the other hand, spend only about 10 percent of their income on food a year, according to the USDA.”

The question arises, what if one of those 4 children get malaria?  Kouéta and colleagues found in Burkina that poor nutritional status was one of the key factors associated with increased risk of death in children with malaria.

Burkina had a short-lived Global Fund Malaria Grant in Round 2 and recently started on its Round 7 grant in June 2008. The first objective of the new grant is to “ensure proper treatment of simple malaria cases diagnosed in health facilities.” Public, private and community health workers are to be trained in proper case management. The GFATM expressed concern in the first progress report that there be proper coordination between principle and sub-recipients for full implementation. The need to closely monitor ACT estimations and actual consumption was stressed.

A reading of the Round 7 proposal implies that ACTs may be subject to the overall national strategy of cost recovery.  One wonders if people like Rasmané can really pay for proper malaria treatment for their children?

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