Ten things you didn't know about malaria

25 April 2018
A woman and her child sit on a bed under a mosquito net, Sierra Leone
Adama Kamara nurses her daughter Miatta Sannoh, 7 months old, in the village of Giema Dama, Kenema District, Sierra Leone.

New York, 25 April 2018 – Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria. Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease that remains, in many regions of the world, a major public health problem. Ninety-one countries currently experience ongoing malaria transmission. Almost half the world’s population – about 3.2 billion people – are at risk of malaria. In 2016 alone, 216 million new cases of malaria were reported, and approximately 445,000 people died of the disease – most of them children.

Progress on global malaria control is slipping. The global community was alerted in November 2017 that malaria cases are on the increase. UNICEF is working closely with WHO and other partners to achieve a world free of malaria, ensuring that those most vulnerable to malaria receive the preventive and curative interventions they need to stay healthy.

“Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria,” said Stefan Swartling Peterson, UNICEF Chief of Health. “Worse yet, after years of progress the most recent year-on-year trend is pointing in the wrong direction. Renewed political commitment and funding is a must if we are going to beat malaria. Far too many children’s lives are at stake.”

Ten key facts on malaria

  1. Among all communicable diseases, malaria is the third largest killer of children between the ages of one month and five years, following pneumonia and diarrhea.
  2. Nearly 300,000 children under the age of five die of malaria died in 2016 equivalent to nearly 800 young lives lost each day.
  3. In the years between 2000 and 2015, the mortality rate for malaria fell by 60% and the number of malaria cases dropped by 37% globally. During those 15 years, 6.2 million deaths were averted, including the deaths of 5.9 million children under five. 
  4. Progress on malaria is beginning to show signs of stagnation.  In 2016, 91 countries reported a combined total of 216 million malaria cases – 5 million more than in 2015. Rwanda and Nigeria together saw an increase of over 1.5 million cases, while DRC recorded an additional 500,000 cases in 2015-2016.
  5. An estimated 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 407,000 deaths in 2016.
  6. Malaria preys upon the vulnerable: children under five years of age, the poorest and most marginalized, pregnant women and their unborn children. Malaria in pregnancy contributes significantly to deaths of mothers and young children, with an estimated tally of at least 10,000 women and 200,000 infants under one year old.
  7. Four out of five malaria deaths occur in one of 15 countries: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Ghana, Angola, Uganda, Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, Niger, Guinea and Chad. More than one in three malaria deaths occur in two countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNICEF has a country office in all of these countries. 
  8. Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) is the most common and most effective way to prevent malaria infection. In 2016, an estimated 54% of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa slept under an ITN compared to 30% in 2010. However, the rate of increase in ITN coverage has slowed since 2014. Less than half of households in sub-Saharan Africa have enough nets for all occupants.
  9. In the last ten years, UNICEF has procured and helped distribute nearly 268 million insecticide-treated bed nets in more than 30 countries worldwide.
  10. Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years with no local cases of malaria are eligible to apply for certification of malaria elimination. In the last decade, six countries have been certified as having eliminated malaria: Morocco (2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia (2011), Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka (2016) and Kyrgyzstan (2016). In the previous two decades, there was one United Arab Emirates (2007). 


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For more information about UNICEF’s actions against malaria, please visit this link.

  WHO, Malaria Factsheet, updated April 2018
  Achieving the Malaria MDG Target 
  World Malaria Report 2017     

Media contacts

Yemi Lufadeju
Communication Specialist
Tel: +1 917 213 4034
Tel: +1 212 326 7029


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