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Malar J. 2009 Nov 20;8:260. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-8-260.

Improving childhood malaria treatment and referral practices by training patent medicine vendors in rural south-east Nigeria.

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Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, P,O, Box 3295, Nigeria.



Malaria remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality among children under five years of age in Nigeria. Most of the early treatments for fever and malaria occur through self-medication with anti-malarials bought over-the-counter (OTC) from untrained drug vendors. Self-medication through drug vendors can be ineffective, with increased risks of drug toxicity and development of drug resistance. Global malaria control initiatives highlights the potential role of drug vendors to improve access to early effective malaria treatment, which underscores the need for interventions to improve treatment obtained from these outlets. This study aimed to determine the feasibility and impact of training rural drug vendors on community-based malaria treatment and advice with referral of severe cases to a health facility.


A drug vendor-training programme was carried out between 2003 and 2005 in Ugwuogo-Nike, a rural community in south-east Nigeria. A total of 16 drug vendors were trained and monitored for eight months. The programme was evaluated to measure changes in drug vendor practice and knowledge using exit interviews. In addition, home visits were conducted to measure compliance with referral.


The intervention achieved major improvements in drug selling and referral practices and knowledge. Exit interviews confirmed significant increases in appropriate anti-malarial drug dispensing, correct history questions asked and advice given. Improvements in malaria knowledge was established and 80% compliance with referred cases was observed during the study period,


The remarkable change in knowledge and practices observed indicates that training of drug vendors, as a means of communication in the community, is feasible and strongly supports their inclusion in control strategies aimed at improving prompt effective treatment of malaria with referral of severe cases.

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