Malaria, the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries
Malaria is a devastating disease that occurs mostly in tropical and subtropical environments in areas around the world. Malaria is the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries and is often responsible for the child mortality rates of children under the age of five. Failure to eradicate this disease in these countries is a result of poverty, scarce resources and socio-economic instability. In regions like Africa, mainly south of the Sahara region, those are of the major causes of the continued spread of this devastating disease, creating a noticeable link between malaria and poverty in underdeveloped countries

Malaria in Underdeveloped Countries

Malaria is the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries. Children who contract severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anemia, respiratory malfunction and cerebral malaria. In areas where transmission is higher, children under the age of five are more susceptible to infection and death, with more than 70% of all malaria deaths falling into this group. Even though the number of malaria deaths within this age group had decreased by 155,00 in 2016, malaria remains the major cause of death for children under five years of age, ending a life every two minutes.

Malaria occurs when climate and other conditions suddenly favor transmission to areas where people have no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low or no immunity move into areas of intense malaria transmission, for example, refugees and those looking for work. Human immunity plays a very important factor, especially in areas of moderate and intense transmission conditions. Partial immunity can be developed through the years, and while it never provides complete protection, can reduce the risk of infection. However, children under the age of five have not had the chance to build any kind of immunity because they have not been exposed to the disease.

The High Cost of Malaria

Malaria is directly related to poverty and economic inequality in underdeveloped countries due to the exponential costs that these countries must face by both individuals and governments. Costs include the purchase of necessary medication, treatment, maintenance, supply and staffing of trained personnel in health facilities, lost days of work with resulting loss of income, burial expenses and the overall loss of economic opportunities ventures through tourism during an outbreak.

Direct costs for illness, treatment and premature death are estimated to be at least $12 billion per year. Total funding for malaria control and elimination was only $2.7 billion in 2016, but this amount is not enough to eradicate the program to its completion. In order to hit the 2030 target from the WHO, an investment of $6,5 billion will be required annually by 2020. Which may be a problem because, on average since 2014, investments in malaria treatment and control have actually been declining in many highly affected countries.

Investing in the Eradication of Malaria

The level of progress in a specific country depends on the strength of that country’s national health system, the level of investment of the disease control and a number of factors including biological determinants, like the environment and the social, demographic, political and economic factors in a particular country.

Some of the challenges in trying to eradicate malaria include the lack of sustainable and predictable international and domestic funding, risks posed by countries in endemic areas, anomalous climate patterns, the emergence of parasite resistance to anti-malaria medicines and mosquito resistance to insecticides and other substances used for eradication and control purposes. In the 41 high-burden countries, malaria funding often remains below $2 per person.

All of these factors contribute to the reversal in recent progress of the eradication and continued treatment of the disease. Many high burden but low-income countries have reported reducing the funding per capita for the population at risk of malaria. For example, the complex situation of Nigeria, South Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen have all resulted in the interruption of services and increasing instances of malaria.

The Sucess of the Global Fund

The Global Fund response to malaria has been very successful, but it presents many future challenges in the battle of eradicating this disease. Between 2002 and 2017, the Global Fund has provided more than half of all international financing for malaria, investing $10.5 billion in programs aimed at controlling the disease in more than 100 countries. The approach targets several areas, such as education about symptoms, prevention and treatment; prevention methods like mosquito nets,  insecticides and preventive treatment for children and pregnant women and diagnosis.

The Global Fund works with at-risk communities by providing training and treatment to stop the disease. They provide information about what malaria is, how it is transmitted, what treatments are available and, most importantly, what action to take if malaria is detected. In Ghana, for example, village elders educate their community “not to let the sun set twice” on a child with a fever.

Malaria is a devastating disease that affects everyone but presents a higher risk in children under the age of five especially in areas like the sub-Saharan region in Africa. There is a noticeable link between Malaria and poverty in underdeveloped countries. The efforts to eradicate this disease have been enormous, but the lack of funding, the disease’s immunity to drugs and insecticides, the socio and economic instability of the governments of some of these countries and the lack of training and information about the disease present major challenges to the successful eradication of the disease. Investing must continue. Hopefully, the work of organizations such as the Global Fund will ensure a future without Malaria.

Mayra Vega
Photo: Flickr

Annie Lennox _ The Globa
Activist and world-renowned musician, Annie Lennox, has become a powerful and influential voice for those suffering from malaria, HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis. Her dedication to the cause became even clearer at a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting in London where she spoke out in favor of the Global Fund and their efforts to reduce and treat disease in impoverished areas.

This is but one of the many ways in which Annie Lennox involves herself in issues of global poverty and disease. In the past, she has fundraised for the Treatment Action Campaign by donating the funds raised from her single, Sing. She is also a recipient of the British Red Cross’ Services to Humanity Award.

At the APPG meeting, she continued her charity work, by vocally supporting the Global Fund and their many initiatives. The Global Fund is a financing institution with the goal of providing support to countries suffering from diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The organization has set a $13 billion funding target for the 2017-2019 period. This money will go toward saving eight million people and stopping 300 million new infections across the span of three years. In order to reach this goal, donor nations will have to increase their offerings by 20 percent. Multiple nations such as Japan and Canada have agreed to this increase. However, the U.K.’s contribution is crucial to reaching this goal.

In her keynote speech, Annie Lennox urged British members of parliament to invest further in the Global Fund and increase their disease-fighting efforts. She said: “With the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund, the U.K. government has the opportunity to show that their continued leadership and dedication to saving and improving quality of life has not waned.”

Award-winning actress Emma Thompson supported the call for the U.K. to step up their funding. Other notable speakers, such as The ONE Campaign’s U.K. Director, Saira O’Mallie, spoke on the same subject. O’Mallie addressed the pertinent issue through her statement, “Amid the uncertainty over the U.K.’s position in the world following Brexit, the Government’s continued commitment to the Global Fund will offer reassurance to millions of vulnerable people.”

The Global Fund does wonders to improve health across the globe, and should be supported across all countries in addition to the U.K.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Health in AfricaOn August 26, the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, TB and Malaria (Global Fund) committed to investing $24 billion to accelerate universal health coverage in Africa. The funding aims to achieve universal health coverage in Africa (UHC) by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The announcement of funding was made at the sixth annual Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD-VI). The investment will fund UHC in Africa: A Framework for Action, a plan launched by the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), the government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Global Fund and the African Development Bank.

The framework targets specific areas that will greatly contribute to the achievement of UHC in Africa including financing, service delivery, targeting vulnerable populations, mobilizing critical sectors and political leadership.

Over the next five years, the World Bank plans to contribute $15 billion under the Global Financing Facility, Power of Nutrition, early childhood development, pandemic preparedness, targeting the poor, crisis preparedness and response and leveraging the private sector. The Global Fund has committed an additional $9 billion in funding between 2017 and 2019 to treat and prevent HIV, malaria and TB.

Emphasizing the importance of good health for economic productivity, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, stated, “African countries can become more competitive in the global economy by making several strategic investments, including investing more in their people, their most prized resource.”

Today, millions of impoverished people cannot afford proper health care and are further entrenched in poverty as a result. The provision of universal health care in Africa would create boundless opportunities for individuals to access health care and work towards prosperity.

Not only does ill-health have devastating effects on an individual basis, but it also drastically affects the economy. Poor health impedes impoverished populations from working and prevents children from attending school. Well-designed universal health care can help alleviate the burdens of poor health, including creating employment opportunities in the healthcare industry.

In 2012, the U.N. called on the international community to substantially increase its funding for health care in developing nations. Marking December 12 as ‘Universal Health Coverage Day’ and turning it into an international movement, the global community increasingly emphasizes the positive outcomes of UHC and the importance of new, innovative ways to reach the most impoverished populations.

Recognizing the importance of achieving UHC, African Heads of State, in conjunction with the World Bank and Global Fund, have vowed a commitment to the push for UHC across the continent. Through international funding, a strategic framework and both regional and global support, UHC in Africa could be an obtainable MDG by 2030.

Anna O’Toole

Photo: Flickr