World Malaria Day acted as an opportunity to reflect on the history of the disease as well as look to the present success of its ongoing eradication. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global efforts toward malaria eradication have resulted in an estimated 3.3 million lives saved since 2000 and mortality rates for children in Africa have dropped by around 54 percent.
Despite these improvements, a child is still killed by malaria every 60 seconds. 3.3 billion people, half the world’s population, are affected by the disease—specifically children, for which 90 percent of all malaria-related deaths occur. The disease, which causes fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, can result in kidney failure, seizures or death if left untreated.
Most malaria cases are reported in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is most prominent. Relatively simple prevention methods, such as bed nets, have helped limit the spread of the disease. Yet despite its decline, public officials claim that less-than-adequate funding is preventing quicker malaria eradication.
“Absolute numbers of malaria cases and deaths are not going down as fast as they could,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. The effect of malaria does not just harm those in Africa, it negatively affects the Western world as well. Malaria reportedly slows economic growth by 1 percent each year — and the effects of the disease are estimated to cost Africa’s GDP more than 12 billion USD per year — even if it would cost significantly less money to control and prevent the outbreak.
Despite its decline, malaria is still all too prevalent. Only around 70 million nets were delivered to highly-affected nations in 2012; in order to significantly minimize infection, this number would have to be at around 150 million. While still desperate for new tools, their current ones are paying off to an adequate extent. Since just 2000, the global incidence rate fell by 29 percent, and 31 percent in Africa alone, where most cases occur. Declared by USAID as the “greatest success story in global health,” malaria, while still needing room for significant work, may just be said “success story” in the making.
– Nick Magnanti