Adherence to the combination of sulphadoxine–pyrimethamine and artesunate in the Maheba refugee settlement, Zambia


Dr Evelyn Depoortere (corresponding author), Dr Jean-Paul Guthman and Dr Dominique Legros, Epicentre, 8 rue St. Sabin, 75011 Paris, France. Tel.: +33 140 21 28 48; Fax: +33 140 21 28 03; E-mail:,,
Dr Naawa Sipilanyambe, National Malaria Control Centre, PO Box 32509, Lusaka, Zambia. E-mail:
Ms Esther Nkandu, University of Zambia, School of Medicine, PO Box 50110, Lusaka, Zambia. E-mail:
Ms Florence Fermon and Dr Suna Balkan, Médecins Sans Frontières, 8, rue St. Sabin, 75011 Paris, France. E-mail:,


Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is one strategy recommended to increase cure rates in malaria and to contain resistance to Plasmodium falciparum. In the Maheba refugee settlement, children aged 5 years or younger with a confirmed diagnosis of uncomplicated falciparum malaria are treated with the combination of sulphadoxine–pyrimethamine (1 day) and artesunate (3 days). To measure treatment adherence, home visits were carried out the day after the last treatment dose. Patients who had any treatment dose left were considered certainly non-adherent. Other patients’ classification was based on the answers to the questionnaire: patients whose caretakers stated the child had received the treatment regimen exactly as prescribed were considered probably adherent; all other patients were considered probably non-adherent. Reasons for non-adherence were assessed. We found 21.2% (95% CI [15.0–28.4]) of the patients to be certainly non-adherent, 39.4% (95% CI [31.6–47.6]) probably non-adherent, and 39.4% (95% CI [31.6–47.6]) probably adherent. Insufficient explanation by the dispenser was identified as an important reason for non-adherence. When considering the use of ACT, the issue of patient adherence remains challenging. However, it should not be used as an argument against the introduction of ACT. For these treatment regimens to remain efficacious on a long-term basis, specific and locally adapted strategies need to be implemented to ensure completion of the treatment.