Dianah Otiend – like millions of other women – lives with the real and constant fear of what malaria can do to her and her baby if she falls ill while pregnant.
Dianah, who lives in Homa Bay on the south shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya, experienced an expectant mother’s worst nightmare: she became ill with malaria twice while pregnant with her baby girl. “When a mother is sick with malaria,” she observed, “it affects the entire family, because a pregnant woman is carrying a life beside her life."
Dianah’s doctor recommended a caesarean section to save both her life and the life of her baby. Consequently, baby Elizabeth was born premature and significantly underweight, weighing around 1 kg (globally, newborns average between 2.5 and 4 kg at birth). Thanks to the care that they received, Dianah is optimistic about her family’s future: “I can say that today I have peace in my heart, I’ve come out of it. My baby is alive. I’m also alive. Elizabeth, I really wish a lot of great things in her life.
It is difficult to know which medicines are suitable for pregnant and lactating women, as they are often excluded from clinical research for fear of causing harm, resulting in a lack of essential data. Including pregnant women in clinical trials will contribute to generating the robust evidence needed on the safety and efficacy of medicines that could save the lives of mothers at risk like Dianah whilst keeping their babies safe.
Dianah's story is featured in a film (below) highlighting MMV's Malaria in Mothers and Babies (MiMBa) strategy, which aims to improve access to appropriate medicines for pregnant and breastfeeding women and newborns affected by malaria.