Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa has revealed that over 384,000 preventable malaria deaths were recorded in Africa in 2020. According to her, the Africa region and the WHO grieved over the lives lost to malaria as it marks World Malaria Day today.
World Malaria Day falls on April 25 each year. The theme for this year is “Zero Malaria – Draw the Line Against Malaria”. According to Dr. Moeti, theme was chosen because “every malaria case is preventable, and every malaria death is unacceptable”.
Dr. Moeti stated that in 2019, Africa accounted for 94% of both the 229 million malaria cases and 409,000 malaria deaths reported globally. However, she indicated that Africa has made great progress in malaria response over the years. Between 2000 and 2019, malaria incidence and deaths declined by 29% and 60% respectively.
She further stated that Africa has averted more than 1.2 billion cases and 7.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2019 . According to her, Cabo Verde has maintained zero malaria status since 2018, and Algeria was certified malaria-free in 2019.
Moreover, Botswana, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa have also achieved the 2020 milestones. This is because these countries were able to reduce malaria incidence and deaths by 40% compared to 2015.
However, 36 of the 44 malaria-endemic countries in the Region did not achieve these milestones. Overall, the Region was off track by 37% and 25% for the incidence and deaths milestones respectively. Meanwhile, Malaria incidence in the region dropped by 9% to 10% every five years between 2000 and 2015. But, in the last five years, this has slowed to less than 2%.
Cost of malaria
“Every year that we let malaria spread, health and development suffer. Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1.3% in Africa’s economic growth. Malaria-related absenteeism and productivity losses cost Nigeria, for example, an estimated US$ 1.1 billion every year.
“In 2003, malaria cost Uganda an estimated gross domestic product equivalent to US$ 11 million. In Kenya, approximately 170 million working days and 11% of primary school days are lost to malaria each year. To change this situation, more needs to be done to help at-risk populations”.
As a result, Dr. Moeti has called for urgent actions to stop the scourge of this disease. The measures will also help Africa to achieve a 90% reduction in cases and deaths by 2030. She urged countries to expand access to malaria interventions for marginalized groups such as children and pregnant women. Also, she cited Smart deployment as vital for protecting the effectiveness of malaria tools. This is in addition to innovations to proactively address anticipated challenges.
Furthermore, she highlighted the positive results from the pilot implementation of the RTS, S malaria vaccine. She indicated that in 18 months, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi were able to deliver more than 1.7 million doses. According to her, these countries have reached almost the same levels of population coverage as other vaccines.
“This is a promising additional tool in malaria prevention. As WHO, we are working with countries to look strategically at the stagnated progress in the past five years. We are asking stakeholders in each endemic country to come together and answer the questions: what is working? what is not working? and what can be done differently to attain the 2030 targets?”
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