Oxfam denounces subsidised malaria distribution program
The charity has spoken out against Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AFFm). The program uses shopkeepers across Africa to distribute subsidised anti-malarial drugs.
AFFm was launched in April 2009. The program increases the availability of anti-malarial medicine by subsidising the cost and allowing shopkeepers to sell them. Oxfam says using untrained shopkeepers as vendors rather than medical professionals puts lives at risk.
Fevers are a key symptom of malaria. Oxfam argues that with only 40% of fevers being malarial, the odds of a street vendor making a misdiagnosis are high.
The worry is that children with pneumonia, or other illnesses with fever as a symptom, will receive malaria medicine that will be of no use to them. This is compounded by the fear that a self-interested vendor could deliberately make misdiagnoses to boost sales.
The alternative to AFFm proposed by Oxfam is community health workers (CHWs). The charity takes Ethiopia as an example of the power of CHWs. The number of malaria deaths in Ethiopia has halved in the three years that CHWs have been active there.
Oxfam proposes that AFFm be scrapped at the next board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDs on 14 -15 November. The charity is likely to find opposition from those with a commercial interest in continuing the program. So long as the medicine is subsidised, the medicine manufacturers don’t have to spend anything convincing people to buy it.