Information and stories about malaria.

Malaria in South AsiaEvery two minutes a child dies of Malaria worldwide. This potentially fatal disease has resurged in many countries in South Asia and surrounding Australia. A big attributor to this is the fact that infected mosquitos are developing resistance to the insecticides that are typically used in bed nets.

Papua New Guinea, for example, experienced a 400 percent surge in malaria cases between 2010 and 2016 and had 3,000 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. Additionally, the disease is more commonly drug-resistant than it used to be, which is leading to an increase in fatality levels.

Obstacles To Eradicating Malaria

Contributing to the spread of the disease is the lack of necessary funding to properly eradicate it. WHO needs between $6-9 billion to fight malaria, but there is currently only around $2.5 billion is being allocated. WHO had a goal to eliminate malaria by 2030, but due to its resurgence and the lack of funding, the likelihood of that being achieved is not high.

Malaria is known as a “disease of poverty.” Its prevalence in certain regions is indicative of the poverty rates in that area. Communities living in poverty are significantly less likely to have access to bed nets and insecticides among other tools to fight malaria. Lack of education also contributes to the lack of knowledge of how to prevent and treat malaria and, consequently, causes a rise in fatalities.

The disease often returns after a period of success in mitigating it. After malaria in South Asia has been successfully fought off, healthcare groups will focus on other diseases and stop actively maintaining the fight against malaria. This dynamic allows for a resurgence of the disease and perpetuates a cycle of malaria spreading.

Organizations Fighting Malaria

Luckily, there are developing solutions on the market. A new drug called Tafenoquine is giving hope to leading malaria experts. The treatment is taken over the course of two days, which is an advantage compared to the previously used treatment, Primaquine, which is taken over twelve days. The shorter treatment time increases the likelihood that those infected will comply and finish treatment.

There are also organizations that are putting their efforts towards eradicating the resurgence of malaria in South Asia. Unitaid has been putting money behind the development of simpler and easier treatments. The group has been collecting data in South Asia to better inform their efforts in addition to surveying in malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africa.

Working alongside Unitaid is The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Secretariat (APLMA). This group focuses not only on increasing innovation in malaria treatments but on providing access to treatments in at-risk communities. Many low-income regions are hard to reach, so APLMA has been looking for new and faster ways to get to these areas.

The efforts to reach at-risk communities are just as important as the work in developing new treatments. All the innovative treatments in the world could be discovered, but they would not matter if the people infected could not access them.

Thanks to Unitaid and APLMA’s projects, the outlook for malaria in South Asia is looking up. Technological advancements and expedited transportation are expected to assist in eliminating the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes
This June, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it would be investing over $4 million in support of Oxitec — an Oxford-founded group that focuses on reducing insect-borne disease around the world. Specifically, the Gates Foundation and Oxitec are partnering to fight malaria with genetically engineered mosquitoes.

The Threat of Malaria

Mosquitoes kill more humans each year than any other creature — a total of 830,000 — and can carry a number of diseases including dengue fever and zika virus. The most deadly of these is malaria.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, which resulted in nearly 450,000 deaths. Malaria hits the very young the hardest, and most fatalities are children under the age of 5; even the children who survive may develop intellectual disabilities.

Malaria occurs in nearly 100 nations. The world has made great progress fighting the disease, including eliminating it in much of Europe and North America, but progress has stalled. Support for fighting malaria has stagnated and the disease is starting to develop a resistance to the drugs which treat it.

A New Strategy

This is where Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes come in. Oxitec introduces a self-limiting gene in male mosquitoes. When these lab mosquitoes mate with females in the wild, any male offspring are unharmed and continue carrying the gene. Female offspring, though, will die before they reach adulthood.

Only adult female mosquitoes can bite and spread diseases. The self-limiting gene effectively targets this portion of the mosquito population while also allowing new males to survive to carry and spread the gene after the original lab mosquitoes have died.

These genetically engineered mosquitoes would be one of several vector control methods (such as mosquito netting and repellant sprays) aiming to reduce the number of disease-carrying mosquitoes in affected areas.

The Oxitec mosquitoes have already proven effective in recent field tests in Brazil where they were released to combat the zika virus and dengue fever. Areas where modified mosquitoes were released showed an 82 percent reduction of larvae and a 91 percent reduction of dengue fever cases. This may have been a relatively small test, but the lab mosquitoes were incredibly effective and even outperformed tried and true traditional methods like insecticides.

Safety and Precision

Similar to many other genetically modified products, many have met the Oxitec mosquitoes with some suspicion. In 2016, residents of the Florida Keys voted against a planned field test in their communities, and environmentalist groups have also opposed Oxitec in the past.

Concerns with protecting the earth’s ecosystems are understandable and commendable. Still, genetically engineered mosquitoes have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives, protect children from the risk of lifelong disabilities and accomplish all of this with minimal and controllable impacts on the environment.

The modified mosquito strategy is not intended to cause the mass extinction of mosquito species. The self-limiting gene only lasts up to ten generations, which ideally will allow for long-term reduction in disease without leading to an unstoppable downward spiral in insect populations.

Long-Term Goals

The gene is also designed to only affect a single, specific species of insect at a time. This specificity allowed Oxitec field tests to target the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that were instrumental in spreading zika and dengue fever in Brazil while leaving other insect populations unaffected.

Whatever the case, both the precision and effectiveness of the genetically engineered mosquitoes doubtless played a role in convincing the Gates Foundation to back Oxitec. Philip Welkhoff, the malaria program director at the Gates Foundation, has affirmed that new, innovative ways of fighting malaria are necessary to eradicate the deadly disease once and for all. The second generation of Oxitec’s mosquitoes are set to be field tested by 2020, and countless lives hope for a breakthrough.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Biggest World Issues
World issues range from a variety of different factors; it could be anything from an environmental problem to a global health risk or an international conflict.

10 Biggest World Issues

  1. Malnutrition and Hunger: Malnutrition and hunger continue to be issues in developing countries, such as the Central African Republic, Chad and Yemen. According to the Food Aid Foundation, 795 million people in the world are not receiving the proper amount of nutrients. Additionally, hunger is the leading health problem among children and adults, causing approximately 45 percent of children’s deaths.
  2. AIDS: HIV/AIDS is an epidemic, in which more than 36.7 million people are living with the disease. About 2.1 million children currently have the disease, and in 2016 alone, one million people have died. The prevalence of AIDS is still alive; however, many international organizations have contributed to its decrease in recent years.
  3. Malaria: Malaria is a major health risk in tropical, developing countries, such as Kenya and the Congo. Approximately 3.2 billion individuals are vulnerable to Malaria — this is half of the world’s population. Young children are the most susceptible, and about 445,000 people died from Malaria in 2016.
  4. Air Pollution: Air Pollution is a global environmental problem that causes health issues and food shortages. Pollutants harm food supplies and crops, which further create problems for malnutrition and hunger. Pollutants also directly harm human life. According to Conserve Energy Future, 65 percent of deaths in Asia and 25 percent of deaths in India are due to air pollution.
  5. Lack of Human Rights: Political systems hinder human rights and liberties that are inherent to every individual regardless of his or her demographic, religion, culture, gender, race, etc. In 2014, Amnesty International recorded that more than a third of governments imprisoned its citizens who were exercising their rights. Abuse and conflict occur on every continent — from state-sponsored killings in Syria to repression of speech in Russia.
  6. Lack of Education: The right to education is not guaranteed within developing countries because of issues such as inequality among different ethnicities or classes, interstate or intrastate conflict, and poverty. 72 million children are unschooled, and about 759 million adults are illiterate. Additionally, girls are the least likely to receive an education.
  7. Gender Inequality:  Due to gender inequality, education and economic opportunity are inaccessible to many women of all backgrounds. About 150 countries have laws that discriminate against women’s rights. Underrepresented in governmental bodies, women only hold an average of 23 percent in parliamentary seats.
  8. Conflict and War: There are still many active conflicts in today’s world that have devastating effects for citizens living within war-stricken areas. The total number of casualties from the Syrian Civil War is about 465,000 individuals, and one in four children are the victims of war. In addition, international tension with North Korea has become the leading determinant of the United States’ international agenda and foreign policy. There is a multitude of other conflicts that have detrimental effects on civilian livelihoods and international peace/security.
  9. Displacement: The number of individuals who were forced to flee their homes has skyrocketed drastically in recent years. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) reported that 31.1 million individuals were displaced in 2016. Displacement could occur after natural disasters or throughout war. Unfortunately displaced individuals have increased to approximately 59.5 million due to continuing conflict in the Middle East. In Syria alone, there are about 11 million refugees, which include young children.
  10. Global Poverty: Poverty is an overarching world issue that affects infrastructure, health, education, human rights, etc. Roughly one billion children live in poverty, and 80 percent of people live on less than $10 a day. Additionally, every 10 seconds, citizens across the globe die due to poverty-related issues. Dismally, the gap between economic and income disparity among countries is widening.

Fortunately, world issues have solutions, and a multitude of organizations are fighting to alleviate pain that has been afflicted by these problems. The International Affairs Budget is one of many solutions that funds development and helps fight diseases, prevent hunger, and create new jobs, while solving many other issues around the world.

If you would like to get involved in helping prevent these world issues, join The Borgen Project in supporting the protection of The International Affairs Budget from proposed budget cuts by sending a letter of support.

– Diana Hallisey

Photo: Flickr

 

effects of poverty
Poverty stretches across the globe affecting almost half of the world’s population. Its effects reach deeper. Uniquely connected to different causes, the effects of poverty are revolving—one result leads to another source leads to another consequence. To fully understand the effects of poverty, the causes have to be rooted out to develop strategies to end hunger and starvation for good. Let’s discuss some of the top effects of poverty.

Poor Health

Globally, millions suffer from poverty-related health conditions as infectious diseases ravage the lives of an estimated 14 million people a year and are of the top effects of poverty. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. Here are the top diseases commonly linked to poverty.

  • Malaria: Malaria is urbanely referred to as the poor man’s disease, as more than a million people living in poverty die from it each year. Caused by a parasite, malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria affects the lives of many in 97 countries worldwide.
  • Tuberculosis: Often referred to as TB, tuberculosis is a bacteria-borne disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, targets the lungs. It also affects the kidneys, brain, and spine. When discussing the effects of TB worldwide, it must be broken down by burden—high burden TB and low burden TB—all of which has to do with the number of cases that impact a country. High burden TB affects more than 22 countries, as low burden TB accounts for 10 cases per 100,000 people in a geographical location.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This infection attacks the immune system and is contracted by contact with certain fluids in the body. If HIV is left untreated, certain infections and diseases can take over the body and cause a person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Thirty-six million people in the world have HIV/AIDS. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, one in five adults live with HIV or AIDS.

Continuing the fight against poverty through economic expansion will help eliminate poverty-related illnesses and raise the value of health in poor communities.

Crime

There’s an old adage that says, “If a man don’t work, he don’t eat.” That’s not the case for a large number people living in poverty. Lack of economic opportunity leads to impoverishment which then leads to crime.

Global unemployment is at a high point. One hundred ninety-two million people around the world are jobless. In some parts of the world, mainly poor parts, unemployment standings will drive this number higher. In a study done on youth in the Caribbean, it was determined that joblessness fueled criminal activity in those aged 15 through 24.

Because of the struggles in the Caribbean job market, the murder rates are higher there than in any other region in the world. The crime rate affects 6.8 percent of the Caribbean population against the world average of 4.5 percent, calculating the global rate per 100,000 people.

People who live below the poverty line and don’t have access to sufficient economic opportunity, live by any dangerous means necessary.

Lack of Education

There is a direct correlation between low academic performance and poverty. Children who are exposed to extreme levels of poverty have difficulty with cognitive development, speech, and managing stress, which leads to adverse behavior.

In the country of Niger—the most illiterate nation in the world—only 15 percent of adults have the ability to read and write. Eritrea follows on the heels of Niger: with a population of 6 million, the average person only achieves four years of school.

In these poor locations, young adults and children have to leave school to work to help provide additional income for their families. Other children don’t have access to education due to decent schools being too far for them to travel to. On the other hand, schools nearby don’t have enough materials and resources to properly educate children. The conditions of the schools are just as poor as the children’s living conditions.

Where there’s poverty, there’s lack of education, joblessness, and poor health. The key to destroying the top effects of poverty is to attack the causes. More funding is needed for programs such as Child Fund International—a program that brings resources to children in poor communities. The International Economic Development Council supports economic developers by helping them create, retain, and expand jobs in their communities. And then there are the international efforts of the World Health Organization that fights to bring vaccinations and health-related resources to impoverished communities suffering from the infectious diseases of poverty. With these efforts along with other strategies, we can continue making strides to end the effects of poverty. 

– Naomi C. Kellogg 

 

eliminating malaria
For 130 million years, malaria has plagued humans as one of the most dangerous diseases on earth. Malaria is transmitted to humans and mammals through mosquitos that carry the parasite. Many African, Middle Eastern and South American countries are afflicted with malaria; however, due to health and technological advances, there are many organizations now fighting against malaria.

Roll Back Malaria – Partnership to End Malaria

Roll Back Malaria (RBM) has worked for many years to combat the spread of malaria. In 2008, RBM put in action the Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP) at the 2008 MDG Malaria Summit in New York, which was a movement endorsed by many world leaders. GMAP mapped out a strong advocacy plan in the fight towards eliminating malaria.

Eight years later, in 2016, RBM organized the Action and Investment to Defeat Malaria (AIM) 2016-2030 plan. AIM accompanies the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 plan, and both programs demonstrate how lowering and eliminating instances of malaria creates healthier and more successful societies.

The benefits of eradicating malaria was demonstrated in a statement made by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: “Reaching our 2030 global malaria goals will not only save millions of lives, it will reduce poverty and create healthier, more equitable societies. Ensuring the continued reduction and elimination of malaria will generate benefits for entire economies, businesses, agriculture, education, health systems and households.”

USAID

Since 2000, USAID, who has partnered with the likes of RBM, the World Health Organization Global Malaria Programme and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has carried out The President’s Malaria Initiative. By 2015, USAID had helped reduce malaria deaths by over 60 percent, saved nearly 7 million lives and guarded against more than 1 billion malaria cases. USAID takes many precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of malaria including:

  • Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) — insecticide is sprayed on walls inside homes and other buildings and kills adult mosquitoes before malaria can be transmitted.
  • Insecticide Treated Mosquito Nets (ITNs) — nets placed over sleeping spaces to repel mosquitoes. The nets automatically kill the bugs that land on the nets, preventing them from biting a human host.
  • Intermittent Preventive Treatment for Pregnant Women (IPTp) — a method that administers the use of antimalarial drugs to pregnant women at their prenatal appointments. This administration protects against maternal anemia and reduces the likelihood of low birth weights and perinatal deaths.
  • Diagnostic Treatment with Lifesaving Drugs — a process that provides diagnostic treatment and testing to guarantee all infected patients receive treatments and therapy.

With USAIDs continuous efforts, the world is well on its way to eliminating malaria.

Together Against Malaria

Together Against Malaria (TAMTAM), a non-profit organization, fights to protect pregnant women and young children from the burden of malaria. TAMTAM works with researchers and policymakers at their offices to increase the usage of insecticide nets.

TAMTAM also distributes free bed nets to underprivileged districts via scientifically and cost-effective methods. The nets are given to health clinics to provide easy-access to everyone living in vulnerable situations, and helps protect pregnant women and children otherwise defenseless against malaria.

Against Malaria Foundation

The Against Malaria Foundation, another organization that helps to distribute insecticide nets, raises money through different organizations and events held each year to raise funds for net distribution. Their specific nets, called LLINs, are long-lasting, so as to ensure that people in these communities stay safe for longer periods of time without having to change out their nets.

The foundation’s charitable efforts include events such as the Speedo Swim Around the World, an event open to anyone, anywhere to help raise funds for the nets. There’s also the Speedo Elite Athletes 2010, which engaged the likes of celebrity swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin in addition to the group, Japan Swimming.

PATH

PATH is an organization working to eliminate malaria through scientific methods and advancements. The company’s preventive methods include vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices and system and service innovations. PATH is speeding up access to effective, affordable and more sensitive malaria diagnostic tools, while also ensuring a stable supply of antimalarial drugs.

PATH’s Center for Malaria Control and Elimination aids in vaccine distribution and diagnostics, and its main goal is to eradicate malaria altogether.

With technological and scientific advancements, eliminating malaria once and for all is a definite possibility for the future. By protecting health, these organizations are doing a world of good by fighting malaria and using the best measures possible to ensure that this debilitating disease does not spread any more.

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr


The Elimination 8 was created in 2007 by eight African countries with an initiative of abolishing malaria in Africa by 2030. By 2020, the E8 hopes to terminate malaria in the four low transmission countries of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. By 2030, the E8 aims to terminate malaria in the four middle to high transmission countries of Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The E8 created a strategic plan to focus on strengthening efforts at cross-border and regional levels. The five core objectives of the plan are:

E8’s Five Core Objectives

  1. Strengthen regional coordination in order to achieve elimination in each of the E8 member countries. While countries continue to pursue their own malaria elimination efforts, the E8 serves as a platform of communication and guidance between countries to advance regional-level efforts. The E8 coordinates a regional structure for all countries to follow in an attempt to stop malaria from spreading across borders. It also partners with the E8 scorecard, which actively monitors the malaria statistics and progress of the countries’ efforts on an annual basis.
  2. Elevate and maintain the regional elimination agenda at the highest political levels within the E8 countries. The E8 relies on partnering with several organizations in order to continue shrinking malaria in Africa. The Ministers of Health and their partners act as additional leadership for malaria elimination. Through ALMA and SARN, the E8 has the ability to publish the E8 scorecard, which is crucial in holding countries accountable for their malaria efforts. Senior political officials help raise awareness for the E8 and can help to secure financial partners.
  3. Promote knowledge management, quality control and policy harmonization to accelerate progress towards elimination. Africa experiences heavy population movement throughout its countries that contribute to the spread of malaria. The E8 created regional maps that outline statistics such as the risk of transmission across borders and human mobility patterns. The main goal is to uncover the “sources and sinks of malaria,” or the areas that export malaria to other countries and the areas that receive malaria from outside sources.
  4. Facilitate the reduction of cross-border malaria transmission. The E8 countries are expected to follow a minimum set of standards in their efforts of shrinking malaria in Africa including the use of insecticides, insecticide resistance and management planning and case classification. The E8 provides guidance through managing information and relaying it across countries.
  5. Secure resources to support the regional elimination plan, and ensure long term sustainable financing for the region’s elimination ambitions. In order for the initiative to succeed in shrinking malaria in Africa, the E8 requires substantial funding. The E8 has decided on a resource mobilization strategy that attempts to fund regional activities from long-term partners. Although this strategy does not fund individual country initiatives, the E8 provides intelligence to support each country.

The Back-and-Forth

The E8 countries experienced a 50 percent decrease in malaria cases over a five year period, from 14 million cases in 2007 to eight million cases in 2012. One particular country, Swaziland, experienced a drastic decline in malaria cases. In 2010-11, Swaziland reported 478 malaria cases during the transmission season with only three malaria-related deaths.

However, in the 2016-2017 malaria season, seven out of the eight countries reported an increase in malaria cases with outbreaks reported in Botswana and Namibia. Through the E8, health ministries held a meeting to determine the source of the alarming rates.

Two main factors were found in the cause of the increase. First, mosquitos were becoming resistant to insecticides and countries were not meeting their spraying targets; and second, insufficient use of surveillance systems caused late responses and a lack of epidemic identification.

Hope for the Future

In spite of the increase of malaria rates, the E8 is continuing to better their efforts to continue shrinking malaria in Africa. “I’m still optimistic and looking at 2025-2030,” says Richard Nchabi Kamwi, former Namibian Health Minister and now the E8 Ambassador for Malaria Elimination.

“Swaziland, for example, is far ahead– for the past five years it did not record a single malaria death. Botswana unfortunately during the last season experienced some local deaths, but I was impressed with the aggressive way in which they responded to the epidemic and how they persevered with their plan. Now it’s 2017, so maybe eradication by 2020 will not happen, but I am looking at 2025, with the final four countries following suit by 2030.”

The countries have modified their action plans for the next malaria season and have prepared epidemic response plans — hopeful omens for the future.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr


Volunteer Adofo Antwi (right) explains to mother-of-four Ama Konadu in Apenimadi, Bonsaaso Millennium Village, how to hang a bednet. Trained by Millennium Village Project staff, volunteers across the cluster work with communities to hang bednets at all sleeping sites and educate local people about the dangers of malaria. Since 2006, over 30,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets have been distributed, covering all households in the cluster.

Malaria prevention in Ghana is a focus of the nation’s Health Service efforts and is seen as the largest epidemic tormenting the Ghana people. Malaria is a potentially deadly disease caused by a one-celled parasite known as Plasmodium. This parasite is carried and transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito that feeds of humans.

People who become infected with malaria often show flu-like symptoms such as: fever, chills, aches and more. The devastation of this disease on not just the people, but the social and economic structure of Ghana, cannot be understated.

Who is Most Vulnerable to Malaria?

Over three million people contract malaria every year in Ghana which accounts for 44.5 percent of all outpatient attendances. Nearly half of all malaria cases in Ghana are children under the age of five and the disease is responsible for 12 percent of under-five deaths. Of those who die from malaria, 85 percent of them are children.

With such devastating numbers, especially for the nation’s children, it is no wonder malaria prevention in Ghana is the top priority of health officials. Not only are the children of Ghana at a greater risk of contracting malaria, but it also disproportionately affects pregnant women whose immune systems are lowered and more vulnerable during pregnancy.

Pregnant women who contract malaria can see severe adverse health effects such as maternal anemia which leads to: miscarriages, low birth weight, and even maternal mortality.

How does Malaria Affect Ghana?

Malaria prevention in Ghana doesn’t just save the lives of children and their mothers, but it also is necessary for the economic and technological growth of Ghana. Malaria has historically been the number one cause of illness and morbidity in Ghana, but malaria is also a major cause of poverty and poor productivity.

With nearly half of the three million malaria cases every year attributed to children, staying in school falls to the wayside as families focus on the recovery of their children. Being taken out of school, greatly affects one’s future earning capacity for themselves, their family, and their future children.

Obtaining an education is often the biggest tool to improving living conditions of not just the individual and their family, but the community as well.

Not only are children at a risk of death after contracting malaria, but children who survive and fight the disease carry long-term consequences into adulthood such as seizures and brain dysfunction. These conditions can make it difficult once the disease is gone to go back to school and receive an education.

Treating and fighting the malaria endemic costs Ghana a significant amount that causes economic growth to be slowed by 1.3 percent a year in Africa; the annual economic burden of malaria is estimated to be 1-2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in Ghana.

Roll Back Malaria Initiative: Goals and Successes

In 1999, Ghana signed onto the Roll Back Malaria initiative developing a strategic plan of action for implementation. The goal of malaria prevention in Ghana, as dictated by the initiative, is to reduce malaria specific morbidity and mortality by 50 percent by 2010 and 75 percent by 2015.

While Ghana did not meet those deadlines at the expected times, Ghana continues to strengthen health services to make malaria prevention techniques more available to the people of Ghana. Strategies for malaria prevention in Ghana as seen on Ghana’s Health Services page includes the:

  • Promotion of insecticide treated bed nets usage; chemoprophylaxis in pregnancy and environmental management to reduce rate of infection
  • Improve malaria case management at all levels (from household to health facility);
  • Encourage evidence-based research to come up with effective interventions and
  • Improve partnership with all partners at all levels.

The Roll Back Malaria Initiative in Ghana empowers the nation to pursue goals to better equip health facilities with malaria diagnostic tools (microscopes or RDTs) and effective antimalarial drugs. Furthermore, the implementation of indoor residual spraying and the spread of insecticide treated materials such as bug nets, have shown success.

The Need for Scale-Up

Nearly 750,000 lives have been saved across Africa due to the Roll Back Malaria Initiative, but the fight for malaria prevention in Ghana still has a long journey ahead. Ensuring children in rural areas have access to clinics and malaria treatment options can be tricky.

Ghana still calls for a scaling up of this community-based treatment in more secluded districts; in districts where treatment is available, the cost of treatment can be out of reach for many families. The inability to access such resources decreases community engagement in treatment, and demonstrates how great the need in Ghana is for affordable malaria prevention methods.

– Kelilani Johnson

Photo: Flickr


In the United States, the summer months often mean one thing: mosquito season. With their annoying buzzing and itchy bites, mosquitos are definitely a nuisance, but they are not a life-threatening issue.

Mosquitos and Malaria

For almost half of the world’s population, however, mosquito season means something entirely different: malaria. Malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitos in many parts of the world is a dangerous and often life-threatening problem. Becoming familiar with the top 14 facts about malaria is crucial to the understanding of the disease and its implications.

Although entirely preventable and treatable, malaria is a fear that continues to persist in the 21st Century for billions of people. Often rampant among the poorest countries of the world, here are the top 14 facts about malaria and what is being done to fight the disease.

Top 14 Facts About Malaria

  1. Malaria is caused by five different parasites species and is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitos. One of the types of mosquitos in question is Anopheles, which are mosquitos bred in areas of clean, unpolluted water such as swamps, the edges of rivers or temporary rain puddles.
  2. Children under five and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. Of the deaths that occur from malaria, 70 percent of them are among children under the age of five. This is because children, in particular, are prone to infection and illness.
  3. Although it was eliminated from the United States in the early 1950s, mosquitos carrying malaria are found on every continent except Antarctica. In places where the disease has been eliminated, re-introduction of the disease is still a possibility.
  4. Malaria mortality rates are falling. Since 2010, global malaria mortality rates have fallen by approximately 29 percent and 35 percent among the age group of children under five.
  5. Insecticide-treated bed nets have been shown to reduce malaria illness. Bed nets are barriers put around people to prevent mosquitos during sleep. Bill Gates is an avid supporter of eliminating malaria and works with his charity to provide netting to countries where the risk of malaria is high.
  6. Two billion people remain at risk of malaria, roughly half of the world’s population.
  7. Sub-Saharan Africa has an extremely high malaria presence. It is estimated that 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in this region.
  8. Cooperation among organizations working to fight malaria has proven to be successful. Addressing malaria is at the forefront of the international community’s thoughts with support from the United Nations, the World Bank, and a variety of other non-governmental organizations. Reducing the world’s burden of malaria was one of the first eight Millennium Development Goals introduced by the United Nations.
  9. Malaria is treatable if caught quickly and appropriately. Early diagnosis of the disease is key to treating it, and catching the disease quickly also helps reduce the transmission of malaria.
  10. Indoor residual spraying is another way countries are fighting malaria. This method works by spraying insecticide indoors and is currently effective for 3 to 6 months.
  11. Malaria impedes economic development in countries where it is extremely prevalent. In some African countries, GDP falls by 1.3 percent per year due to malaria’s economic consequences. Malaria also discourages investment from outside countries and impairs many children’s ability to go to school.
  12. The World Bank is very dedicated to controlling malaria. In previous years, the organization has contributed nearly $1 billion to the cause.
  13. Malaria-related deaths have decreased by 50 percent since the disease’s peak in the early 2000s.
  14. In 2018, the World Health Organization plans to pilot a project of a first-generation malaria vaccine. The project will be targeted in sub-Saharan Africa.

Road to Improvement

The universal elimination of malaria is possible in the 21st Century. The cooperation, funding and persistence to find solutions to the disease exist in ways never before thought possible.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Flickr

PMI expansionThe President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) aims to help reduce malaria in countries all over Africa. As of 2018, the PMI plan has expanded to five new countries, bringing the total to 24 countries receiving help. Some of the countries that have already been receiving aid are Ghana, Ethiopia and Benin. The five new countries that were added to the expansion of PMI are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Sierra Leone, all in West Africa.

 

Burkina Faso

Of Burkina Faso’s 19 million residents, 80 percent live in rural areas and are at the highest risk for poverty and poor health. The end goal of PMI is to completely eliminate malaria by 2030. Currently, the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) strategy for 2015-2020 is to reduce malaria death rates and reduce malaria incidence rates by 40 percent each. The PMI expansion into Burkina Faso is also working on 10 focus areas for the NCMP, such as monitoring, evaluation, emergency management and prevention in pregnant women.

 

Cameroon

In Cameroon, 22 million people are at high risk of contracting malaria, especially pregnant women and children. With the PMI expansion, the Cameroon National Strategic Plan (NSP) included six strategic plans that focus on:

  • Prevention
  • Case management
  • Communication
  • Training and research
  • Surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and epidemic response
  • Program management

The stated mission of the NSP is to make malaria care, prevention and treatment efficient and affordable, even for the individuals who are the most marginalized. By 2018, the goal of the NSP is to reduce both malaria morbidity and mortality by 75 percent.

 

Cote d’Ivoire

As of 2016, almost half of all children living in Cote d’Ivoire were infected with malaria. The National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP) for 2010-2017 aims to reduce malaria mortality to one death per 100,000 and reduce malaria cases by 75 percent. The revised plan is also working to increase the number of people that are sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) from 33 percent to 80 percent with help from the PMI expansion. The end goal for pregnant women is to have 85 percent sleeping under an ITN and 100 percent of all malaria cases in pregnant women to be treated as quickly as possible.

 

Niger

Twenty million people live in Niger, and of those 94 percent are at risk of contracting malaria. According to the PMI, more than 56 percent of all deaths in pregnant women are caused by this disease. However, in 2017, 80 percent of women received three doses of malaria treatment and prevention medication and slept under ITNs. The NMSP goal is to reduce malaria mortality rates and the incidence of malaria by 40 percent. One expected result for NMCS is for 80 percent of Niger’s population to be sleeping under long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets by 2021. All of these goals are more than attainable thanks to the PMI expansion.

 

Sierra Leone

About 6.5 million people in Sierra Leone are at risk of contracting malaria, and about one million children under five years old receive outpatient care because of malaria. Between 2015 and 2020, the primary goal is to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by 40 percent. The NMCS objective for Sierra Leone is for 80 percent of the population to have access to prevention and treatment for malaria, and that by 2020 a minimum of 95 percent of health facilities will routinely report to the malaria program.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in four out of these five countries, malaria is the number one cause of death. In all five countries, malaria was the number one cause of premature death in 2016. The goal of PMI in all countries is to reduce malaria mortality by one-third and reduce malaria morbidity by 40 percent. All of these programs, goals and objectives have the chance to be hugely successful because of this ongoing work and the PMI expansion.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

App to Treat MalariaFor the people of Mozambique, malaria is a familiar and deadly part of life. As one of the world’s leading victims of the disease, Mozambique sees thousands of its citizens die as a result every year. Global initiatives have fought hard to treat and prevent malaria, including awareness campaigns and insecticide-treated nets. Since 2015, though, Mozambique has used an innovative resource: a smartphone app to treat malaria.

Mozambicans in rural areas often receive their health care from government-funded community health workers. These community health workers (agentes polivalente elementare, or APEs) are trained to diagnose and treat Mozambique’s most ubiquitous diseases, including malaria. Seeing a need to improve treatment, APEs in Mozambique have been provided with the CommCare app, created by the Malaria Consortium’s inSCALE research project and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The CommCare app allows APEs to better treat their patients through a number of means. It teaches better consultation methods through images and audio. It also creates better communication between APEs and their supervisors and functions, so medical records can be uploaded anywhere. App users in Mozambique have reported that it provides for clearer and more accurate treatment. New methods for recognizing and treating malaria are more easily transmitted to remote areas. The app to treat malaria has given community health workers better tools, communication and resources to assist in their vital work.

The entire population of Mozambique is at risk for malaria infection, typically spread by insects. The disease presents itself through flu-like symptoms and can be fatal if left untreated. Prior to 2010, there are no official figures for the number of deaths due to malaria. Since 2010, deaths to malaria have decreased and, in 2015, dipped to an all-time low.

On a morose but encouraging note, malarial confirmations have risen concurrently with the decreasing deaths. This suggests that malaria is being recognized, diagnosed and treated in Mozambique.  

Malaria is a relatively easy disease to treat. With early diagnosis, antimalarial medications can clear out the parasite and cure the patient. African countries are prone to malaria because of several factors: mosquitoes are rampant, medical clinics are scarce and preventative measures are often difficult to come by.

Because early diagnosis is so vital to a malaria victim’s odds of survival, Mozambique has taken steps to bridge the gap between rural areas and medical treatment. Aside from preventative measures, Mozambicans in remote areas rely on APEs to treat the country’s deadliest afflictions. The CommCare app gives APEs the resources to more accurately diagnose malaria and treat it appropriately.

Mozambique is seeing a positive trend in recent years. There are more diagnoses and fewer deaths. Eradication of the disease is still far off; however, using technology such as the CommCare app to treat malaria is guiding Mozambique in a positive direction. Countries around the world would be served well by adopting the same approach to the fight against malaria.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr