Iran gains ground in battle against malaria

malaria clinic
Sadegh, an Iranian volunteer trained to test malaria symptoms using RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test) kits, tests an Afghan construction worker. (Photo: Vina Barahman/UNDP Iran)

Torah, a construction worker in search of a new job and better prospects, was travelling west into Iran from Afghanistan. His second day on the move, he was hit with fever and chills, then excruciating pain – the first signs of malaria.

He asked locals for help and was referred to Sadegh, a volunteer who had been trained to deal with malaria symptoms using RDT (Rapid Diagnostic Test) kits.  Torah had an advanced stage of serious malaria, so Sadegh immediately took him to the nearest Health House, one of 584 now active in Hormozgan province with the support of UNDP and the Global Fund.

Highlights

  • Families in 531 villages in south of Iran have been provided with UNDP/Global Fund-supported malaria health care since 2008.
  • Between 2007 and 2012, the number of positive malaria cases in the province decreased from 6,218 to 141.
  • No local cases of serious falciparum malaria were reported in 2012.

There, Torah was injected with treatment and sent to the closest available hospital.

“I thought I was going to die when they told me it is the most dangerous type of malaria,” said Torah. Had he been bitten 10 years earlier, when RDT kits and special treatment were not as accessible, it is unlikely he would have survived.

In addition to dispensing the essential medicine, the Rapid Response Teams (RRT) regularly distribute bed nets and spray outdoor and indoor spaces to kill infected insects, including malaria mosquitoes. The teams are funded through the Global Fund and managed by UNDP.

Since the Malaria Project started in 2008, funded by Global Fund, the risk of contracting malaria has declined substantially in Hormozgan province. The project began with a goal of eliminating local cases of malaria by 2016. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of positive malaria cases in the province decreased from 6,218 to 141, with a few local cases of common Vivax malaria. Last year, no local cases of the more serious falciparum malaria were reported – a great step toward achieving of MDG 6.

Since that time, UNDP has worked closely with Iran’s Center for Disease Control to provide knowledge, expertise and logistical support in countering malaria in Hormuzgan and other malaria-stricken areas of Iran. The project has achieved its goals earlier than expected: in 2012, 76 percent of the malaria cases reported in Hormuzgan were reported not among local residents, but among immigrant workers coming from either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The response is now driven by technical cooperation between the Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences and Health Services; the Ministry of Health; the World Health Organization; and UNDP. At ground level, there are three emergency sites and six Rapid Response Teams in operation. At present, RDT kits are available in every health house at all times, making it possible to diagnose malaria quickly.  Families across 531 villages have access to bed nets.

“Even in remote villages that do not have health houses, some locals like me have volunteered to be trained,” says Sadegh. “They know how to use RDT kits. They distribute bed nets and teach the villagers how to install them.”
Today in Hormozgan province, similar to some other parts of the country, free diagnostic services for malaria is provided free of charge for all, regardless of nationality.