Johannesburg – Twenty-one countries have experienced three consecutive years of zero indigenous cases of malaria since 2000. Ten countries where malaria once raged have been certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) free of malaria.
This is according to the latest World Malaria report. looking back on important events and milestones that have shaped the global response to the killer disease over the past two decades. Several veterans of the fight against malaria presented the report during an online briefing before it was released today.
Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, describes the new report as a ‘special edition’ of the publication. “It provides a detailed analysis of progress with the milestones [on the path to eliminating malaria], and also contains a dedicated chapter on malaria and the COVID-19 pandemic, “says Alonso.
Sustained efforts have averted seven million malaria deaths in Africa.
The “extraordinary achievement of 1.2 million cases of malaria and seven million deaths averted in the WHO Africa region is really something to be happy about”, says Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, director of the WHO’s regional office for Africa. “While the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the gains we have made over the years due to poverty and disease could be reversed.”
Moeti already says: “Malaria causes an annual loss of 1.3 percent in Africa’s economic growth, and we know that the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to hit sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in 25 years. “This incredibly challenging situation requires a new commitment to maintain and accelerate the gains against malaria, a disease that is killing more and more people in Africa than diseases like Covid-19 and even Ebola,”
Despite the fact that Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in many countries, more than 90 percent of life-saving malaria prevention campaigns have continued by 2020, helping to double the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 alone. prevent.
It is twenty years since the Abuja Declaration signed by African heads of state, which has undertaken to halve malaria deaths on the continent over a ten-year period. Since then, there has been progress, but the report maintains that more can be done. In 2019, there were 229 million malaria cases reported worldwide. It is estimated that 409 000 people died from the disease in 2019, compared to 411 000 in 2018, so the rate of improvement has fallen flat. Last year, 94 percent of the global deaths from malaria occurred in the WHO region.
Inadequate funding has been one of the challenges facing most countries, especially low-income countries. To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a serious additional challenge to malaria responses worldwide.
Another finding is that one in three pregnant women – 11 million women in 33 African countries – contracted malaria, giving birth to up to 822 thousand children with a low birth weight. Underweight babies run the risk of being malnourished and ‘hampered’ – never reaching their full intellectual or physical potential.
“This report is a wake-up call, it tells us that we are unlikely to reach the 2030 targets of the Global Malaria Strategy if we continue on the current path. To reverse this situation, there are two key challenges that The first is the persistently weak systems in countries with malaria endemic and insufficient funding, ‘says Moeti.
“The total global expenditure on malaria, as illustrated in this report, is US $ 3 billion – for a disease that infects more than 200 million people and kills more than 400 thousand people, US $ 3 billion is a shockingly small amount of money “, says Peter Sands, executive. Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, based in Geneva. “We know that when we concentrate our resources and spend more money, we can get rid of this disease.”
Hundreds of thousands of children dying from a preventable, treatable disease are unacceptable.
The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 was adopted in 2015 by the World Health Assembly – the assembly of all member states of the WHO. It provides a comprehensive framework to guide countries in their efforts to accelerate progress in eliminating malaria and sets the target for global malaria incidence and death rates by at least 90 percent by 2030.
“As malaria is one of the oldest diseases, it is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of children, especially vulnerable children under the age of five, are still dying from this preventable and treatable disease.” says Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM [Roll Back Malaria] Partnership. Although every malaria death can be avoided, Diallo says, malaria deaths often die during health crises.
‘Therefore,’ he says, ‘it is fundamental to tackle malaria and Covid-19 together to save more lives and maintain investment in the fight against malaria. We cannot allow the Covid-19 pandemic to deter us from protecting the heavily fought gains and protecting efforts to end this disease within this generation. ‘
For accelerated progress, the report recommends that those in power step up political leadership, strengthen malaria surveillance, ensure fair access to quality health services and adopt innovation.