DRC – PGM and base metals mining company Ivanhoe Mines has today launched a new, advanced healthcare initiative in the on-going campaign against malaria in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Prompt capture of dependable data from screening tests conducted on patients is an essential step to help ensure that accurate and consistent diagnoses are made. This in turn will help to build a secure foundation for the future development and delivery of large-scale, effective prevention and treatment activities that can benefit people of all ages,” says Ivanhoe CEO Robert Friedland.

Fio's Deki Reader introduces a new dimension in malaria detection, helping to deliver a rapid, accurate diagnosis and transmitting results to a cloud database
Fio’s Deki Reader introduces a new dimension in malaria detection, helping to deliver a rapid, accurate diagnosis and transmitting results to a cloud database

The first phase of the programme will cover two established provincial health zones that provide services to a total of approximately 300 000 residents living in 40 urban centres and 330 villages.

The Kipushi Health Zone, in southern Haut-Katanga province, includes Ivanhoe’s Kipushi mine project. The Kanzenze Health Zone, in Lualaba province, includes Ivanhoe’s Kamoa copper discovery and mine development project.

The Fionet system, developed by Fio Corporation – a private Canadian healthcare technology company focused on solutions for the management of infectious diseases – will be introduced into the DRC through the three-year programme being sponsored by Ivanhoe Mines.

With support from US-based implementing partner Chemonics International, DRC health workers will use Fionet to strengthen activities under the country’s National Malaria Control Program (PNLP).

Fio’s intelligent devices, known as Deki Readers, automate critical analyses of diagnostic tests for malaria, provide step-by-step guidance through workflows designed according to national guidelines and make it easier for health workers to track patient health outcomes over multiple visits. The company will make the data immediately available to programme managers to help them monitor progress and target areas requiring improvement.

Friedland says that new technologies and skills have provided proven tools to address some of the challenges traditionally associated with malaria.

“Ivanhoe is privileged to be in a position, with our partners, to provide new resources to support established healthcare objectives and to help ensure that the latest tools are placed in the hands of trained, dedicated, front-line workers, right here in the DRC, where they will make a difference in contributing to better informed health management decisions and life-enhancing outcomes.”

Dr. Edem Adzogenu, an Ivanhoe Vice President and Chief Health Officer, says that while malaria is an entirely treatable disease, it continues to inflict a devastating toll on residents of communities throughout the DRC.

“This programme will introduce knowledge and technology that deserve to be more widely utilised to significantly improve the health and welfare of people living in the DRC’s malaria-inflicted regions.”

“Integrating the Fionet system into local healthcare services will give residents, including our workers and their families, access to a higher standard of malaria care. At the same time, data captured through Fionet will strengthen disease surveillance and management of malaria-control activities at the provincial and national levels.”

Training session on Fio's intelligent diagnostic devices for staff from the Health Ministry in Lubumbashi
Training session on Fio’s intelligent diagnostic devices for staff from the Health Ministry in Lubumbashi

Using a train-the-trainer model, the programme will empower trainers from the Ministry of Health to build capacity among workers at established health centres. The first phase is introducing the system to 54 centres that cover two health districts and the planned second phase will extend the system to an additional 300 health centres in a number of districts still to be selected.

“People too often seek help when the disease already is severe,” says Dr. Ghislain Makan, Provincial Coordinator with PNLP, which is the Health Ministry’s malaria-control coordination body.

“This partnership will empower health workers to offer better care at the primary level and make data collection an integrated and automated part of their routines.”

Malaria remains a pervasive threat in the DRC

Dr. Michael Greenberg, Fio’s Chairman and CEO, note that approximately 97% of the DRC’s 70 million residents live in areas where malaria is endemic. Malaria parasites transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes still cause the deaths of about 180 000 people in the DRC every year; more than 90% of the victims are pregnant women or children under the age of five.

“Today’s announcement signals the activation of a compassionate initiative that is an example of how a government, a mining company, a health technology company and an aid implementer can innovatively combine knowledge and resources to improve the effectiveness of the fight against a terrible cause of death and disability in the DRC,” Greenberg says.

Jamey Butcher, Executive Vice President of Chemonics International, added, “At Chemonics, we believe the private sector can be a powerful force for creating meaningful change in the world. With Ivanhoe and Fio Corporation, we are proud to put this belief into action — adapting innovative technologies to the local context in ways that can demonstrate a profoundly positive impact on healthcare delivery and health outcomes for communities in the DRC.”

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