More investments needed to fight malaria: WHO

Albert Chavhunduka

As the world celebrates World Malaria Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says more investments and innovations are needed to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives as the disease continues to have a devastating impact on the health and livelihood of people especially in the African region.

This year’s Malaria World Day is marked under the theme, “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives.”

In a statement, WHO called for investments and innovations to speed up the pace in the fight against the deadly disease whilst urging world countries to ensure that the fight against malaria remains on top of their political agenda.

“No single tool that is available today will solve the problem of malaria. WHO is calling for investments and innovation that bring new vector control approaches, diagnostics, antimalarial medicines and other tools to speed the pace of progress against malaria,” read the statement.

“Despite steady advances in lowering the global burden of malaria between 2000 and 2015, progress has slowed or stalled in recent years, particularly in high burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Urgent and concerted action is needed to set the world back on a trajectory toward achieving the 2030 targets of the WHO global malaria strategy.”

WHO said malaria continues to have a shocking impact particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where more than two thirds of recorded deaths were among children.

“Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that continues to have a devastating impact on the health and livelihood of people around the world. In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million new cases of malaria and 627 000 malaria-related deaths in 85 countries. More than two thirds of deaths were among children under the age of five living in the WHO Africa Region.”

However, travel restrictions, border closures, curfews, lockdowns, and social distancing meant to curb the spread of Coronavirus have been directly and indirectly affected the delivery and utilization of essential health services, including malaria services.

The suspension of indoor residual spraying (IRS) and insecticide-treated net (ITN) distribution, shortages of malaria commodities, and reduced demand for health services have hindered the continued delivery of malaria services.

There was an excess of over 30,000 malaria cases from January to June 2020 compared to the same period in 2017, 2018, 2019.

The number of malaria deaths recorded in January to June 2020 exceeded the annual totals for 2018 and 2019. District level maps indicated that areas outside high malaria burden provinces experienced higher than expected malaria incidence and mortality, suggesting potential outbreaks.

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