Fact Sheet: Malaria, A Global Crisis
The Reality of Malaria
- Malaria is the silent emergency that kills one child every 30 seconds, about 3000 children everyday
- Over one million people die from malaria each year, mostly children under five years of age, with 90 per cent of malaria cases occurring in Africa, south of the Sahara.
- Malaria hampers children's schooling and social development. Many children who survive a serious attack of malaria develop physical and mental impairment.
- Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria, as a result of low birth weight and maternal anaemia.
- Infants born to mothers with malaria are more likely to have low birth weight – the single greatest risk factor for death during the first months of life.
- Almost 300 million people suffer from acute malaria each year
- 40 % of the world’s population live in areas with malaria risk
- Malaria, seen as a consequence of poverty, is also a major cause of poverty and its prevention is an important part of poverty alleviation
The Hidden Costs of Malaria
- Malaria has been estimated to cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP, even though it could be controlled for a fraction of that sum. Malaria continues to slow growth by more than 1% a year
- Malaria-endemic countries are among the world’s most impoverished
- A malaria-stricken family spends an average of over one quarter of its income on malaria treatment, as well as paying prevention costs and suffering loss of income
- Malaria-afflicted families on average can only harvest 40 % of the crops harvested by healthy families
- In endemic areas, as much as 60 % of children’s schooling may be impaired as a result of absenteeism due to repeated bouts of malaria
- Although the commonly used antimalarials (chloroquine, sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine) only cost a few cents, these drugs are rapidly loosing their effectiveness in many places in Africa. The new and effective treatment, ACTs, cost far more - $2.00 to $2.50 for an adult treatment dose.
- The universal use of insecticide-treated bed-nets can reduce episodes of illness by 50 % in areas of high transmission, yet fewer than 2 % of African children sleep under a net
- Although ITNs at present cost only about $2, these require regular re-treatment every 6 to 12 months with insecticide, which costs an additional $0.50 per treatment. The new technology of “long-lasting insecticidal nets” or LLINs cost $5-$6 at the present time.
- Health systems’ failure, drug resistance, population movement, deteriorating sanitation, climatic changes and unplanned development activities continue to pose challenges to the control of malaria
- The use of scarce hard currency on drugs, nets and insecticides for malaria control and treatment puts additional burden in the already fragile economies of most African countries.
The Opportunities - Malaria is preventable, treatable and curable
Today there are effective tools at hand to make substantial progress against malaria:
- Widespread use of insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITNs) can reduce child mortality by 20%. The new technology of “long-lasting insecticidal nets” or LLINs eliminates the need for re- treatment and keeps the nets effective for up to 5 years.
- Malaria mortality can be drastically reduced by ensuring prompt access to effective antimalarial treatment, preferably using newer “artemisinin-containing combination treatment” or ACT
- In addition, intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) of malaria during pregnancy significantly reduces the proportion of low-birth weight infants and reduces maternal morbidity
- The malaria parasite’s resistance to treatment can be delayed through using therapies that combine different medications such as ACTs: the challenge is to get inexpensive combination drugs available to all who need them
- A reduction of taxes and tariffs for mosquito nets and other commodities such as insecticides, anti-malarial drugs will contribute significantly to malaria control strategies
- High level political commitment and mobilization of resources is required to apply the effective tools, medicines and control strategies already available.
- Accelerating coverage of these interventions require sustainable financing mechanisms and subsidies targeted to vulnerable population groups such as young children and pregnant women.
- Overall strengthening of health services for young children and pregnant women, and collaboration with other key programmes for child and maternal health are essential for effective action against malaria. This includes supporting countries to prevent malaria during pregnancy through good antenatal care, and collaboration with childhood immunization programmes to deliver malaria interventions.
- Working with families and communities to improve their knowledge on the prevention, recognition and appropriate treatment of malaria is key to the success of any malaria control programme.