Monday, April 25, 2011

World Malaria Day

“In a rural hospital in Ethiopia that cares for the poor, a fragile young girl called Zakhiya has recovered recently from severe malaria. In the six short years of her life, Zakhiya has battled a number of infectious diseases. Her struggle will probably continue throughout her childhood. But Zakhiya is fortunate: she has fought off malaria -- this time.”

25 April 2011 is World Malaria Day. Malaria kills over 800,000 people each year, but malaria prevention efforts are helping cut down this number. “An expansion of malaria control programs between 2008 and 2010 has resulted in the distribution of enough [ insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) ] to protect more than 578 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Malaria Report 2010, and indoor spraying has protected 75 million people, or 10% of the population at risk in 2009.”

During the past 10 years, malaria prevention and treatment efforts have saved an estimated 750,000 children in 34 African countries. Distribution of nets, indoor pesticide spraying, and use of effective medications are the best adversaries to the malaria parasite and the mosquitoes that carry it.

A decade ago, Zanzibar recorded over 18,000 cases of malaria. Today, it is virtually absent from the archipelago. “In 2009, Morocco and Turkmenistan were certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having eliminated malaria and the WHO European Region reported no cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria for the first time.”

“These successes have been a collaborative effort of government, multilateral and non-government organizations and the private sector. But much of the leadership and funding has come from the U.S. government, through the President's Malaria Initiative, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation. These donors have helped drive an 18-fold increase in malaria funding between 2003 and 2010.”

We can celebrate this World Malaria Day, because efforts to stop malaria are proving themselves successful. “But malaria remains a deadly killer, threatening half the world's population and taking nearly 800,000 lives a year. Malaria strikes society's most vulnerable, especially children under the age of five -- 85 percent of malaria deaths fall into this group -- and pregnant women.”

Malaria also strikes at the economy. This “disease costs Africa US$12 billion in lost GDP every year and consumes 40 percent of all public health spending in malaria endemic countries in Africa, where lost productivity is estimated to reduce GDP by 1.3 percent per year. And malaria consumes up to one-quarter of household income in some countries.”

“One of the most difficult challenges” malaria presents “is to make novel health interventions affordable, accessible and available to those who need” them the most. “In this long war to eradicate malaria we are at a tipping point. Malaria has been eliminated or is close to elimination in several countries.” We cannot stop fighting.

“To stop efforts before the last parasite has been defeated is to lose the enormous gains already made.” Malaria spreads quickly. We must be faster. Every 45 seconds a child dies from malaria. Malaria eradication is within reach. With global effort we can make this deadly disease a thing of the past.

Sturchio, Jeffrey L.; David Reddy. "Malaria: Solid Success but No Time for Complacence". Huffpost Health. 23 April 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I have been on a few African safaris and was always conscious about malaria, especially travelling with my children. Is it true that scientists have bred a new species of GM mosquito resistant to malaria that they hope to succeed the carrier species?