Canada's foreign aid agency is being urged to end its $20-million support for an international scheme aimed at tackling malaria in Cambodia and seven African countries over fears the illness could become more drug resistant because medications are being improperly distributed.
In a report released on Tuesday, development group Oxfam Canada said the Affordable Medicine Facility for malaria has increased availability of anti-malaria medicines in the eight target countries.
The problem is that the scheme revolves around subsidizing medications that are distributed by shopkeepers who aren't qualified to diagnose whether the patients they are selling the drugs to actually have malaria or some other illness.
"A shopkeeper selling salt, pepper and malaria medicines cannot tell if a child has malaria or pneumonia," Oxfam senior health policy adviser Mohga Kamal Yanni said in a statement.
The Canadian International Development Agency says the scheme is designed to not only subsidize anti-malaria medication, but also "support activities that promote safe and proper use" of the drugs. "These activities include training, supervision, and marketing and information campaigns," according to CIDA's website.
Oxfam's findings are consistent with a report published by the World Health Organization in September. WHO said there has been no research into how many people who took advantage of drugs distributed through the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria, which has received a total of $336 million from CIDA, the British aid agency, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations, actually had malaria.
"In the absence of exit surveys with measurements of parasite rates in consumers treated with co-paid (medicines), it is not possible to estimate with a good level of confidence the proportion of (medicines) that were given through the AMFm to true malaria patients," the WHO report reads.