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Malaria kills around 660,000 people a year, world-wide. When the number of cases in North Kivu reached emergency levels, Emily and the rest of the team had to work fast to set up mobile malaria clinics at different sites across the region. In her last photo blog, Emily showed how the team worked quickly to get the clinics set up. In this post, she blogs about what happens when patients start to arrive...
Some were very keen!
In this project we need to get an idea of the nutritional status of the population and therefore we take MUAC data for every child between 24 and 59 months who enters our clinic, whether they are a patient or not!
We know there are food shortages here and the more displaced people that arrive, the less food there is to go around, so the data will help us understand the extent of the medical needs associated with this.
We refer children on the orange and red scale to the Kashuga Health Centre. Kashuga has a permanent health centre where children can be assessed for whether they need to be entered into the malnutrition programme that MSF supports there.
After the registration it’s the malaria test. This is a quick-diagnosis blood test that is very simple to train people to do – even I can do it!
The test involves pricking the finger with a needle, taking a tiny blood spot and putting it onto the test strip. We then add solution that reacts with the blood if the patient has malaria. You have to wait 15 minutes for the result. A single red line means negative and a double red line means positive – as you can see from the picture above, the majority of tests we did were positive.
Next up it’s consultation. Every patient we receive who tests positive for malaria is consulted. They are asked details about their symptoms, malaria net usage, as well as where they are from.
Knowing where patients have arrived from helps us identify if there is an area from which a lot of cases are originating, as it could indicate a need for an MSF intervention there too – many people walk for hours or sometimes even days to reach our clinics as they are the only free health care for miles around.
People who are unwell but who test negative for malaria we refer to the Kashuga Health Centre, which is able to treat a wider range of illnesses than the simple malaria our emergency team is here to deal with.
The medication is crushed into water and given onto a spoon to the child. It tastes gross!
With experience, the pharmacists have found that covering the child’s eyes during this process has a much higher success rate than if they see what’s on the spoon!
Once the child has taken the medication and has waited 15 minutes without it coming back up again, they are free to go. Their parents or brothers and sisters are given instructions for when and how to give the remaining doses.
For example, a few days into the clinics we were receiving a large number of child patients being accompanied by other young children. This was a problem as we cannot give medication and administration instructions to a child to follow in case they misunderstand and get it wrong, which could make the patient even sicker.
When this happened, we asked the health educators to walk around the camps and town with megaphones, passing the message that all child patients must be accompanied by an adult in order to receive treatment.
Whilst the team is working hard to diagnose and treat people with malaria, they also know that prevention is better than cure. Read Emily's next instalment here, and find out how the team is working to reduce the number of people getting infected.
Get a deeper insight into the work of MSF by contacting us.