Information and stories about malaria.

Cabo Verde Finally Eliminates MalariaIn January 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) certified Cabo Verde as malaria-free, making it the third African nation to achieve this status. The elimination of malaria in Cabo Verde resulted from government initiatives and local community engagement. This accomplishment serves as a model for other countries prone to malaria.

Cabo Verde’s Malaria Statistics

Malaria, a potentially fatal illness, caused approximately 608,000 deaths and 249 million cases worldwide in 2022. Africa bore the brunt, with 580,000 (95%) of these fatalities and 233 million (94%) of the diagnoses. Additionally, 80% of malaria deaths among children under the age of 5 occur in Africa.

Cabo Verde comprises 10 small islands located beyond the West African coast and has more than 500,000 inhabitants. The country nearly eradicated malaria on two separate occasions, but neither was sustained. The first attempt involved residents using indoor spray to kill mosquitoes, which ceased in 1969. Consequently, malaria cases resurfaced on Santiago Island in 1973, leading to a nationwide outbreak in 1977. The second attempt in 1978 also aimed to eliminate malaria, resulting in significant case reductions by 1983, except on the Boa Vista and Santiago Islands.

The New Approach

In 2007, the Cabo Verde government enhanced its efforts to eliminate malaria by revising its health care policies. These changes aimed to increase the diagnosis rate, ensure the quick and efficient delivery of medicine and improve the supervision and recording of all malaria cases. In 2017, Cabo Verde was on track to eliminate malaria when an outbreak of 423 cases occurred. This outbreak prompted a change in strategy, leading to the reintroduction and reinforcement of indoor spraying and insecticidal nets, especially in areas most affected by malaria. Due to its successful efforts, the WHO declared Cabo Verde malaria-free on Jan. 12, 2024.

The country achieved this status by recording no malaria transmissions for more than three consecutive years and demonstrating the capability to prevent the re-establishment of transmission. With this achievement, Cabo Verde joined ranks of Mauritius and Algeria in being malaria-free. It is also became the 43rd country worldwide to receive this certification.

The Effect Of Malaria Elimination On Poverty

Infected individuals often participate less in the workforce due to illness, potentially reducing their earnings and pushing them into poverty. Additionally, the risk of malaria can deter investors from putting money into affected countries. This trend suggests that achieving malaria-free status may lead to positive outcomes for Cabo Verde.

Tourism is vital to Cabo Verde’s economy; before the COVID-19 pandemic, it contributed 24% to Cabo Verde’s GDP, accounted for 10% of employment and attracted most of the foreign capital. Cabo Verde’s malaria-free status may encourage more tourists from non-malaria-infected countries to visit without fear of contracting the disease or adhering to strict health precautions. This influx could boost the country’s revenue and increase personal incomes, helping to break the cycle of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Cabo Verde’s achievement as a malaria-free nation sets a precedent for public health success in Africa. Its commitment to maintaining this status could inspire similar strategies across other malaria-prone regions, enhancing global health security and economic stability.

– James McAlinden

James is based in Rosehearty, Scotland and focuses on Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Top Poverty-Fighting Causes 
In 2023, Open Philanthropy pledged $300 million of funding over the next three years to GiveWell, an organization searching for and highlighting the most cost-effective, top poverty-fighting causes through comprehensive research. Open Philanthropy aims to achieve the best possible, conducting thorough research on the organizations they fund to achieve this. Open Philanthropy’s funding of $300 million to GiveWell will have a huge impact on those who need it most, preventing tens of thousands of deaths and demonstrating Open Philanthropy’s faith in GiveWell as they “set the gold standard in our eyes.”

Open Philanthropy began as an initiative within GiveWell, headed by Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, later growing into its own independent organization in June 2017. GiveWell and Open Philanthropy still work closely together as they share the mutual goal of finding the top poverty-fighting causes and cost-effective organizations that do the most good. Since the founding of Open Philanthropy, it has awarded GiveWell more than $1 billion in funding. While GiveWell publishes data and research to recommend the most impactful organizations to the public, Open Philanthropy primarily chooses where to give Tuna and Moskovitz’s money, funding a broader range of issues with a focus on how important a cause is, if it is underfunded and if there is a clear way in which funding could accelerate progress. So far in 2023, Open Philanthropy has donated $140,312,603 to organizations recommended by Give Well. 

Sightsavers

Since 2017, Open Philanthropy has been funding deworming programs led by Sightsavers at the recommendation of GiveWell.

In March of this year, they continued their support for Sightsavers, giving a total grant of $11.2 million to fund the next three years of their work. The majority of the funding, $8.3 million, will support already established deworming programs in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, with the other $2.9 million used to develop the program in Chad to cover 10 more regions. 

Sightsavers treat children for the parasitic infection schistosomiasis, which kills 200,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa every year, and intestinal worms. Deworming is recognized as one of the most cost-effective programs in areas where these parasitic infections are high. Without treatment these diseases can affect cognitive and physical development, impacting the child’s health and disrupting their education as they struggle to concentrate or miss school. This can perpetuate the poverty cycle as it is almost impossible to escape poverty without an education. 

Malaria Consortium 

Extending its funding for the seventh year in a row, Open Philanthropy awarded the Malaria Consortium $61.4 million to aid its seasonal malaria chemoprevention programs in Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso and Togo until 2025. Open Philanthropy is passionate about tackling malaria, as every year it causes 600,000 deaths, 70% of which are children under 5 years old in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its grant to the Malaria Consortium funds the administration of antimalarial drugs to children monthly during the four peak months of the malaria season.

GiveWell recommended Malaria Consortium to Open Philanthropy as seasonal chemoprevention has proven to effectively and significantly reduce the widespread presence and severity of malaria. A longitudinal study conducted in Togo showed SMC reduced the prevalence of malaria by 75% in 2020, while the fourth round of SMC proved to be 96.2% more effective than the first round. As malaria is the leading cause of death in children under five, it is unsurprising that the Malaria Consortium’s effective work is one of GiveWell’s top poverty-fighting causes. 

Helen Keller International – Vitamin A Supplementation 

Open Philanthropy’s grant to Helen Keller International in January 2023 was 17 times larger than the previous year, awarding them more than $67 million to assist with vitamin A supplementation (VAS) in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Vitamin A deficiency occurs in poverty-stricken areas as their diets lack variation or nutrients and can have detrimental impacts on their health by weakening their immune system, causing anemia, stunting, blindness and complications during pregnancy or birth. Helen Keller International aids in VAS programs for children by providing technical assistance, advocacy and funding for governments to implement the programs. The grant supports Helen Keller’s operations in 8 countries for an extra 18 months, ending in June 2026, and helps them expand to more regions, such as in DRC, where Helen Keller plans to reach 7 new provinces by 2025.

Open Philanthropy’s generous funding of $100 million a year to the top poverty-fighting causes recommended by GiveWell, will save tens of thousands of lives every year. Hopefully, this harmonious partnership will continue to play a massive and vital role in the fight against poverty. 

– Alice Isola
Photo: Freepik

As of March 29, 2023, the World Health Organization declared the country of Azerbaijan malaria-free. This result comes after a century of efforts to eradicate the disease from the nation using a range of methods and policies. Azerbaijan joins 41 other countries that have eliminated malaria. The elimination of malaria in Azerbaijan can be used as a case study for other nations when it comes to enacting effective policy.

How Was Malaria Eradicated in Azerbaijan?

The government and local authorities implemented a range of policies and innovative solutions to work toward eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan. Three strains of the disease were prevalent in the country in the 20th century, however after a significant interruption to the spread of two of these strains, Plasmodium Vivax remained the only prominent strain of malaria in the country.

Since then, the country has made significant progress toward controlling and measuring this strain of malaria. Some of these policies and methods included:

  • Effective specimen collection
  • Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System implementation
  • Extensive public funding and investment in health care facilities and preventative measures

Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System (EIDSS)

The Ministry of Health adopted the Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System in 2010. The system provides accurate and real-time reporting of infections within the country. The data collected can be measured, analyzed and shared between different agencies for the most effective targeting and control of diseases, including malaria. The platform is an open-source system that allows medical clinics and centers for hygiene and epidemiology to input live data and react accordingly.

The use of this electronic data system vastly improved the recording and notification of the prevalence of malaria in the country. Traditional paper methods in 2010 had a timeliness notification rate for dangerous diseases of 37% until this increased to 98% once the government established EIDSS. The accuracy and completeness of data were also improved after the development of EIDSS. 

The Impact of Malaria Reduction on Poverty

Eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan creates a ripple effect across all areas of society, improving individual lives dynamically.

Initially, reducing malaria transmission greatly improves the health of citizens and health outcomes for the region as a whole, such as increasing life expectancy. On the other hand, research indicates that reducing malaria has impacts beyond health. 

Reducing malaria mortality creates better opportunities for people. With better health and less disease transmission, individuals will see less expenditure on anti-malaria drugs, treatment, funeral expenses and other associated costs. Dealing with malaria is expensive and costs the continent of Africa $12 billion in GDP per year, significantly slowing down economic growth. With a larger workforce unaffected by malaria, a country’s overall productivity and GDP can grow. For children especially, better health can improve school attendance and education, providing them with better career opportunities in the future that may have been hindered if they were exposed to the disease. 

On the other hand, research also considers the monetary factors associated with effective malaria eradication and current aid levels are not deemed to be sufficient to eliminate malaria and reverse the disease-poverty trap. The disease-poverty trap is the concept that without sufficient investment, poorer communities lack the resources to be able to overcome dangerous diseases and get locked in a cycle of sickness and poverty.

The Economy and Malaria

While eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan reinforces that it is possible to wipe out the disease, there is also a notable intersection between malaria eradication and economic prosperity.

Many have concluded that without the economic advantages that were available to the Azerbaijan government, it is uncertain whether the country would have eradicated the disease so soon. The country’s Parliamentary Health Committee commits almost $700,000 annually to be put toward malaria prevention activities. These investments included the Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance System and vast improvements in medical centers, antiviral drugs and laboratories.

Without sufficient aid and investment, it may be harder for less developed countries that suffer from malaria outbreaks to adequately fight the disease. An interview between Dr. Keith Carter and the WHO concluded that economic prosperity aided in preventing malaria transmission in Azerbaijan.

With adequate monetary investment and aid intervention, it is possible to eliminate malaria and subsequently pull thousands of people out of the disease-poverty trap. By providing the correct resources and investing in effective malaria prevention methods, malaria can be eradicated across the globe, as demonstrated in the case of eliminating malaria in Azerbaijan.

Ariana Mortazavi
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Tanzania
Tanzania ranks among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest reported malaria cases and deaths. A survey by the Severe Malaria Observatory (SMO) revealed that 93% of Tanzania’s population lives in areas that are at high risk of malaria outbreaks. Transmission rates of malaria in Tanzania vary between regions and the country goes through seasons where it expects large spikes in the number of cases. The Star Homes Project is fighting malaria in Tanzania through improved housing.

Malaria in Tanzania

The U.N. describes malaria as a disease that “impoverishes families, households and national economies.” The economic impact of malaria is especially evident in Africa where an annual spend of $12 billion goes into addressing malaria outbreaks. Plasmodium falciparum, a unicellular protozoan parasite, is responsible for 96% of malaria cases in Tanzania. Vector mosquitoes transmit malaria to the human population by carrying the parasite.

Tanzania experiences three distinct malaria transmission seasons: stable perennial transmission, stable malaria transmission and unstable seasonal malaria transmission. Stable perennial transmission impacts 60% of the country, whereas stable malaria transmission and unstable seasonal malaria transmission impact 20% of the country at any given time in a year. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines perennial transmission as “transmission that occurs throughout the year with no great variation in intensity.”

Tanzania’s Malaria Burden

The WHO’s World Malaria Report 2021 identified that Tanzania accounted for 4.1% of global malaria-related deaths in 2020. The report also outlined that malaria in Tanzania accounted for 12.8% of reported cases in East and Southern Africa in 2020. The country adopted the Malaria National Strategic Plan (MNSP) in 2020 and the scheme is due to continue until 2025. The MNSP hopes to diagnose malaria more effectively and extend medical services to disadvantaged groups in the rural areas of Tanzania.

The Star Homes Project

The Star Homes Project began in 2018 under the management of the company Ingvartsen Artikekter. Ingvarsten oversees a cross-functional team of architects, physicians, entomologists and members of Tanzania’s local communities. The Star Home Project is fighting malaria in Tanzania by providing affordable and improved housing with effective ventilation and physical protective barriers that stop mosquitoes from entering Tanzanian homes and infecting inhabitants.

As of November 2022, the Star Homes Project built 110 homes across 55 villages in Mtwara, a rural settlement in Tanzania. The company’s homes feature a two-story structure and “permeable facades of sea green screening mesh” that blocks mosquito access. The design also includes self-closing doors that control ventilation and helps the house to maintain cool temperatures throughout the day. From 2022 to 2024, the Star Homes Project will complete trials that compare the health of children living in the Star Home to those living in their usual residences.

Estimates predict that sub-Saharan Africa will have a population of 1.1 billion people by 2050. Following these predictions, the Star Homes Project has identified the need to implement better health measures so that Tanzania’s current and future residents can safeguard themselves against highly transmittable diseases and respiratory infections.

Looking Ahead

Malaria continues to be a prevalent issue in Tanzania requiring extensive efforts to decrease the risk of infection during peak transmission seasons. However, the Star Homes Project offers an innovative housing solution that could assist Tanzania in reducing its high malaria rates and usher Tanzanians into a safer, disease-free era.

– Jennifer Preece
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Chad
According to the Malaria Consortium, Chad has one of the highest mortality rates globally for children younger than 5. For every 1,000 children, 119 die before the age of 5. Malaria is a significant cause of death in Chad, especially among children. Pregnant women and children are the most susceptible to contracting malaria because of their fragile immune systems. Several measures aim to control malaria in Chad, especially among the most vulnerable groups.

Preventative Measures

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of insecticide-treated nets and antimalarial medication among the most vulnerable populations in endemic countries.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) funds insecticide-treated nets for distribution to countries facing high malaria burdens. In March 2022, AMF agreed to distribute 6.8 million mosquito nets across all of Chad’s provinces from January 2023 to April 2023. The distribution of these nets could prevent up to 9,000 malaria-related deaths. AMF also estimates that the supply of nets will add $163 million to Chad’s GDP. In a country where the poverty rate stood at 42% in 2018, measures to reduce the nation’s economic burden are crucial.

The Malaria Consortium aims to improve health across Asia and African regions “through evidence-based programs that combat targeted diseases and promote universal health coverage,” its website says. The Malaria Consortium’s malaria prevention efforts involve the distribution of seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) to protect vulnerable populations in endemic countries. This effective intervention involves “administering monthly doses of antimalarial drugs to children aged 3-59 months during the peak malaria transmission season.”

In May 2016, the Malaria Consortium established an office in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital city, and has led SMC initiatives since then. In 2021, the organization provided support for SMC interventions across 26 districts in Chad, with the aim of reaching about 1 million under-5 children.

Since 2000, the incidence of malaria in Chad has reduced from 267 per 1,000 vulnerable people to 206 in 2020, according to the World Bank. One can attribute the general decrease in numbers to increased treatment and prevention measures.

Malaria Vulnerability During Pregnancy

Contracting malaria during pregnancy poses risks to both the mother and child. “Pregnant women suffering from malaria are at increased risk of anemia and miscarriage and their babies are at risk of stillbirth, prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight,” says the Population Reference Bureau. Low birth weight is a significant cause of neonatal mortality. Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that malaria during pregnancy causes between 75,000 to 200,000 infant mortalities annually across the world. In 2020, the WHO Africa Region recorded that 34% of all pregnant mothers had malaria exposure.

To protect vulnerable pregnant women from malaria, the WHO recommends the use of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) as part of antenatal care. The use of insecticide-treated nets is also important to ensure the mother’s safety. However, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), branded as Fansidar, has its limitations. It has reduced efficacy among women with HIV and SP-resistance is becoming more common.

Efforts from organizations have contributed to a reduced prevalence of malaria in Chad. Continued treatment efforts and preventative measures will ensure the most vulnerable populations are protected from malaria.

– Yv Maciel
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Addresses Malaria
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines malaria as “a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.” People are at most risk of malaria in countries with warmer temperatures as the disease spreads at a faster rate due to the weather conditions. In 2020, the WHO estimated the existence of a total of 241 million cases of malaria throughout the world, and at this stage, the number of deaths arising from the disease stood at 627,000. The WHO African region holds the highest number of malaria cases globally. In 2020, the region accounted for 95% of malaria incidents and 96% of malaria-related fatalities. Furthermore, children younger than 5 made up about 80% of all malaria-related fatalities in this region. Due to these statistics, UNICEF addresses malaria through several initiatives and programs.

How UNICEF Addresses Malaria

Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are one of the most effective malaria prevention methods. These chemically- treated nets form a physical barrier to protect against malaria-infected mosquitos while an individual is sleeping. The net itself blocks the mosquito from getting to the individual and the insecticide kills the mosquito once it touches the net.

Data shows that LLINs have reduced malaria cases by about half in sub-Saharan Africa. For this reason, UNICEF uses LLINs as its first line of defense against malaria in affected regions. In 2021 alone, UNICEF utilized 40.9 million of these nets in its malaria prevention programs. UNICEF first began using LLINs in 2000 and has procured more than 275 million nets since 2012. These nets are affordable and last “up to three years or 20 washes.”

A Malaria Vaccine

In October 2021, the WHO recommended the use of the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) RTS,S malaria vaccine among children in high-risk countries. According to GSK, long-term clinical studies show that it is “the first and only malaria vaccine” to remarkably decrease cases of malaria among children. The vaccine is the culmination of more than 35 years of research by GSK, PATH and partners.

In December 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced that it would finance the rollout of this vaccine across child vaccination programs in eligible nations.

UNICEF addresses malaria through its announcement in August 2022 of an award of a contract of up to $170 million to GSK for the “first-ever supply of a malaria vaccine.” This contract will allow for the distribution of 18 million doses of the vaccine over the following three years. UNICEF highlights the importance of this vaccine by stating that in 2020, “nearly half a million children died from malaria in Africa alone, a rate of one child death per minute.”

UNICEF’s supply division director, Etleva Kadilli, commented on a UNICEF press release that “the vaccine rollout gives a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work” as these vaccines are both necessary and in demand. The vaccine is effective against the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite, which takes many lives across the world, to the greatest extent in Africa. As malaria is a global concern, demand for the vaccine is high and plans are already in motion to increase production of it with the hope of eventually immunizing every child against the disease.

Thanks to the work of researchers and organizations such as UNICEF, in endemic areas of the globe, vulnerable children under 5 will receive protection against malaria mortality.

– Claire Dickson
Photo: Flickr

New Malaria Vaccine
As the summer draws to a close, so does the peak season for malaria infections in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. The Malaria Consortium estimates that up to 60% of malaria cases in the country occur during the period between July and November. The World Health Organization (WHO) 2021 malaria report notes that around 3% of global malaria deaths in 2020 took place in Burkina Faso alone. A new malaria vaccine could be the first step in tackling a disease that has plagued the African continent for decades.

The burden of malaria weighs heavily on the country’s population, especially in the Nanoro area, where researchers chose to trial a new vaccine in 2020. The results proved promising, and now, two years on, outcomes are still promising. A 2022 Lancet Infectious Diseases article suggests that, in combination with a booster dose administered one year after the original three doses, the vaccine remained highly effective in fighting malaria in children.

Malaria in Africa

Burkina Faso is not the only African nation tormented by this disease. In fact, the WHO’s 2021 malaria report stated that 95% of malaria cases in 2020 occurred in Africa, with Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda facing the worst impacts. This is primarily because the parasite that causes the most life-threatening form of malaria, plasmodium falciparum, is native to many African countries.

The effects of endemic malaria on a country can be both far-reaching and devastating. An Against Malaria Foundation report states that not only is malaria one of the leading causes of death among children due to their fragile immune systems but it also causes long-term health issues because the severity of the illness prevents children from participating in social and educational activities that promote healthy development. The report also highlights the strain placed on African health care infrastructure while trying to treat malaria, which accounts for between 20% and 50% of hospital admissions on the continent.

Health-related issues aside, the malaria crisis has contributed significantly to stagnating and even setting back economic development in Africa for years. The WHO estimates that the growth in GDP per year of countries with high numbers of malaria cases stood at only around 0.4% over the period between 1965 and 1990 — 1.9% lower than other countries where malaria is not such a concern.

The New Vaccine

Scientists have been working on a vaccine to combat malaria for years, but to say this endeavor is an uphill battle is an understatement. The parasite exists in three stages once it is inside the human body, making it difficult to target; a vaccine may work against the parasite at one stage but not the next. The best candidate up until recently was RTS,S, but the efficacy of this vaccine wanes significantly after the first year.

While it is an acceptable candidate, for now, research into other options is necessary and ongoing. The R21 vaccine produced by the University of Oxford is the most promising yet. The WHO has set a target of 75% efficacy for a prospective malaria vaccine — initial results, published in the Lancet in 2021, found that the R21 vaccine’s efficacy was between 74% and 77% after six months, meeting the WHO goal.

Coupled with the three initial doses, a booster after one year proved to restore the efficacy of the vaccine to its original levels. On September 7, 2022, a follow-up article revealed that the R21 vaccine remained safe and effective one year after the booster dose, making this the most effective malaria vaccine yet.

Not only is R21 highly effective but it also appears to cause no side effects more serious than a fever. It is also set to be cheaper than its predecessor, RTS,S — Oxford vaccine expert Adrian Hill, speaking to Chemical Engineering News, suggested that R21 may be sold for less than $5 per dose.

Looking Ahead

The R21 vaccine could have a bright future, but it requires further testing, and that can only happen with funding. The WHO has not yet approved it for wider use, but researchers are hopeful that with further larger-scale trials, the vaccine could receive approval as early as next year.

Malaria drains government resources, strains health care infrastructure and lowers labor productivity, according to the Giving What We Can Project. It also kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Investing in solutions, especially in terms of research into potential vaccines, could be the remedy to the ongoing malaria crisis that has plagued Africa for decades.

– Abbi Powell
Photo: Flickr

Malaria No More
Malaria No More (MNMUK) is a global charity aiming to end malaria – a disease that roughly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting. The groups most susceptible to getting this disease are children under five and expectant mothers. Poorer communities also find themselves being hit harder by the disease, which negatively impacts children’s school attendance and adults attending work.

MNMUK believes that by working to increase government spending on ways to speed up the delivery of malaria prevention and treatment tools and simultaneously conveying their message to a broad population, the incidence of the disease will reduce. MNMUK’s hope is that mortality and incidence rates will decrease by 90% by 2030; in its eyes, this is the first step forward in eradicating the disease in the next several decades.

MNMUK Progress to End Malaria

One key MNMUK project is its global Zero Malaria campaign. The effects of the Zero Malaria campaign speak for themselves: 23 countries have launched the campaign so far and many more are on the cusp of joining. Politically, the charity was able to organize official parliamentary coalitions across Uganda and Tanzania and religious leaders have partaken in a march through Lusaka in Zambia to promote the Zero Malaria campaign.

MNMUK has also been able to support the African Union Commission in creating the Conversation Guide for Youth in Africa to encourage more young people to participate in the malaria response. The guide is helping young people engage in malaria policy dialogue and advocacy.

David Beckham and MNMUK

MNMUK decided to enlist one of the most famous faces worldwide to champion its cause to end malaria– David Beckham. Working with cutting-edge video technology, the charity had survivors of the disease speak through David Beckham’s face in nine different languages. Because of this, the campaign made the information accessible to more people. In this way, the David Beckham video enabled some of the most at-risk individuals to project their voices into society. Moreover, the video reached hundreds of millions of people and scooped up a CogX award for Outstanding Achievement in Social Good Use of AI (a concept in videography).

Accompanying the film was a behind-the-scenes montage featuring experts on malaria who are playing a crucial role in working to end malaria. Beckham has worked with MNMUK since 2009 and says the struggle against malaria is something that means a lot to him because the disease is especially fatal to children. Beckham has also commented on his enjoyment of meeting and working with the inspirational people involved in the charity.

– Claire Dickson
Photo: Flickr

Malaria Eradication in the Caribbean
Malaria in today’s world is largely absent from the Caribbean due to the success of past eradication efforts. Despite this, total eradication in the Caribbean is not complete. The island of Hispaniola, which Haiti and the Dominican Republic shares, continues to combat the disease. In the 21st century, efforts focusing on the island have given hope that effective and complete elimination of the disease may be within reach. With the help of international allies, complete malaria eradication in the Caribbean is possible.

Understanding Malaria and Its Dangers

Malaria is a dangerous parasitic infection that humans can catch through female mosquito bites. Symptoms can manifest in various ways, such as fevers and muscle aches. Contracting the disease requires urgent medical care due to the severity of the illness. Symptoms can become extremely painful as they progress and, without treatment, malaria can result in death. While treatment can be effective, no vaccine currently exists against infection. This makes malaria an urgent issue that requires global action.

The dangers of malaria compound its impact on human health. The social and economic effects of malaria can be a major hindrance to a nation’s development. Pregnant women are one of the most vulnerable groups that malaria can affect. This threatens female attendance within education and hinders their participation in the general economy, thus widening the gender equality gap within affected nations such as Haiti or the Dominican Republic. The end result is that women are moving further into poverty.

A History of Malaria in the Caribbean

Malaria has existed across the globe for centuries with it being most prevalent in tropical regions. The Caribbean is no exception to this, however, there is some speculation regarding malaria’s introduction to the region. Theories have determined that malaria arrived in the Caribbean through European exploration of the Americas and the transatlantic slave trade. Epidemics continued to plague the entire region throughout the first half of the 20th century before widespread eradication efforts took hold.

Today, the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme has placed a majority of the Caribbean nations on its certified list of malaria-free countries and territories. Programs such as this have supported malaria eradication in the Caribbean, while investments into health care systems have also helped the region get to where it is at now. These programs are typically a mixture of mass treatment as well as a targeted treatment for the most at-risk groups. As a result, Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain the last two countries within the Caribbean awaiting malaria eradication.

The Last Strong Hold

In 2004, the Dominican Republic was experiencing a rise in malaria cases. This came decades after most of the Caribbean had eliminated it. Reported infections rose by 31% that year alone. Due to the country being a major tourist destination, malaria affected many international visitors. At least 14 international tourists from Western Europe and North America contracted malaria during the spike. Although the risk to tourists remained low and still is to this day, the presence of the disease acts as a deterrent for potential visitors. The Dominican Republic relies heavily on tourist revenue, as do many of its island neighbors. This means that any threat to the industry could result in further impoverishment for the nation’s citizens.

Malaria has an even stronger albeit diminishing hold on neighboring Haiti. Haiti came close to eradicating malaria in 1968 through the Global Eradication Program. As a result, malaria’s presence within Haiti dropped to less than 1%. However, unfortunately, Haiti did not sustain its efforts to eliminate malaria due to a lack of funding and political instability. Haiti saw a rise in malaria cases in the 70s and the turmoil that Haiti’s 2010 earthquake caused further stifled efforts to combat the disease. The most recent statistics for 2020 showed a total of 22,987 cases in Haiti. Limited funds and natural disasters, among other political disturbances, have prevented malaria from being eliminated from the island of Hispaniola.

Solutions

Haiti’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), along with support from the U.S.-based CDC, has helped implement widespread testing as well as initiatives to control mosquito populations. These efforts have seen malaria cases in Haiti reduce by 50% since 2009. In 2015, the CDC worked with the Haitian government and researchers to collect blood samples and carry out surveys to identify activities that may be putting individuals at risk of catching malaria. The surveys encompassed approximately 20% of the population in Haiti’s Verrettes and La Chapelle communes. These efforts also extend across the island into the Dominican Republic.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also began operations in Haiti in response to the 2010 earthquake. Rapid diagnostic testing has now become the main method of tracking the spread of malaria across Haiti. Malaria elimination in the Caribbean is now in sight due to international efforts and interventions. With continued help, total malaria eradication will be a reality.

– Bryce Mathurin Lindsay
Photo: Flickr

End Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020, there were approximately 241 million malaria cases globally. The African region accounted for 95% of the cases and 96% of the deaths. However, governments and other organizations, and companies have recently pledged to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2030.

Historic Kigali Summit

On June 23, global leaders led by Rwanda President Paul Kagame convened at the Kigali Summit on malaria and neglected tropical diseases. This historic summit was the first to discuss these diseases in Africa. Members of the summit convened to discuss and introduce solutions and strategies to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases by 2030. The summit caused governments, companies, organizations, philanthropists and others in the private sector to commit more than $4 billion. Countries that these diseases affected donated more than $2.2 billion. Supporters similar to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pfizer pledged a combined donation of more than one billion dollars to the cause. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies donated 18 billion medicine tablets to prevent and treat neglected tropical diseases.

The attendees highlighted specific goals to achieve to follow WHO’s global malaria strategy for 2016 to 2030. Some of the goals to reach completion by 2030 include:

  • Decreasing the number of new malaria cases by at least 90%
  • Decreasing malaria death rates by at least 90%
  • Ensuring at least 35 countries abolish malaria
  • Decreasing the number of people needing treatment for neglected tropical diseases by 90%
  • Eliminating dracunculiasis and yaws, two neglected tropical diseases.

Past Progress in Ending Malaria and NTDs

In the past, governments and other organizations have been working hard to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases. With the increase in government funding and access to treatment, malaria and neglected tropical diseases cases have decreased.

Here are a few achievements:

  • The number of malaria cases and deaths has significantly reduced since 2000. From 2000 to 2020, about 10.6 million malaria deaths and 1.7 billion malaria cases did not occur.
  • The WHO director-general labeled nine countries as free from malaria since 2015.
  • Forty-six countries have removed one NTD.
  • One billion people have received treatment for an NTD between 2015 and 2019.

Impact of Kigali Summit

While malaria and NTD cases have decreased since 2020, there is still a long way to go. The 2022 Global Malaria Action Plan by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, a group of more than 500 organizations dedicated to ending malaria, emphasizes that 3.3 billion people in 109 countries are at risk of malaria. Each year, 185,000 people die because of an NTD. However, the Kigali Summit provides greater opportunities for treatment and preventative measures to fight these two deadly diseases for people worldwide, impacting billions of people.

The summit also demonstrates the cooperation of countries, organizations, and others and their dedication toward one goal. Because of the African leaders’ persistence through the COVID-19 crisis, they were able to secure high-level commitments of billions of dollars. The world is one step closer to the goal to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases by 2030.

Looking Ahead

Malaria and NTDs have affected billions of people across many countries worldwide. The dedication from governments, organizations and members of the private sector indicates a different future, one free of these deadly diseases. At the Kigali Summit, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that “…we have the tools and the strategy to prevent that – and, with new tools, to start to dream of a malaria-free-world.”

Janae O’Connell
Photo: Wikipedia Commons