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Malaria is a deadly disease that kills over half a million people every year, and most of these victims are children. Of these deaths, 90% occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Heath Organization (WHO) and its partners have dedicated millions of dollars and years of effort to eradicating malaria, and recent statistics show that these efforts have paid off.

Since 2000, strides against malaria have spared 3.3 million lives with a 45% decrease in mortality rates. As a result, African childrens’ mortality rates have plummeted an amazing 54%. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has praised the progress, but adds that further work is required in order to completely eradicate the disease.

Malaria does not only affect the health sector of the countries that it infects. Malaria has been shown to lead to a depression in economic growth due to the loss of a working population. Eight years ago, the United States implemented the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which uses USAID and the CDC to help mitigate malaria.

At first, the initiative focused on Tanzania, Uganda, and Angola, and reducing child mortality rates due to malaria within these countries. The PMI also provided anti-malaria measures such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor sprays, as well as treatments when the illness does occur. Prevention efforts have protected over 50 million people in 2012 alone and over 180 million treatments have been distributed.

However, as malaria becomes less common, the malaria parasite is adapting a resistance to the drugs used today. A strain of this resistant malaria parasite has been found in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the future, the global effort will require new tools and technologies to eliminate these new strains of the disease.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: All Africa, Nets for Life Africa
Photo: USA Today