BRAZZAVILLE – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that malaria is still claiming many lives as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
On 25 April 2020, the globe commemorates World Malaria Day to draw attention to the devastating impact of this disease on families, communities and societies.
But WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that malaria remains a threat, with about 400,000 dying of the disease every year.
“African countries have led a massive effort to control the disease and Algeria was certified malaria free in 2019. However, there were still 213 million cases in the WHO African Region in 2018, accounting for 93% of cases worldwide,” Dr Moeti said in a statement released on Tuesday, April 21.
“Every year over 400 000 people die of malaria, and 94% of these deaths occur in the African Region. Children under five years are the most vulnerable group, accounting for 67% of deaths. This situation remains alarming and inequitable,” he added.
Dr Moeti said through the Sustainable Development Goals, countries have committed to ending the malaria epidemic by 2030. The E-2020 Malaria Elimination initiative was launched in 2017 and to halt rising cases, mainly in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, WHO’s High Burden to High Impact approach was launched in 2018. A year ago, pilot testing of the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS’S, started in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. So far, 275 000 children have received the vaccine.
“This action is commendable, but we are falling short on the 2020 milestone of a 40% reduction in cases and deaths. We will need to double our efforts to achieve a 75% reduction by 2025. Greater political commitment, accelerated investment, and more innovation in malaria prevention and control are urgently required,” he said.
“Together, we must recognize that as long as malaria exists, it threatens the poorest and most vulnerable, and has the potential to resurge in times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic facing us now,” he added.
To build on the gains we have made, WHO urgef countries to allocate resources, to work across sectors, and to strengthen cross-border collaboration to control malaria.
“With the required financing, strong coordination, dedicated partners and engaged communities, we can achieve a malaria-free Africa,” WHO added.
The theme of World Malaria Day 2020,“Zero Malaria Starts with Me” is a grassroots campaign, first launched in Senegal in 2014. It aims to engage everyone from policy-makers to the private sector to communities affected by malaria.