25 April 2013
Shawn Clackett

World Malaria Day

April 25, 2013

By the time you finish reading this article, malaria will have killed five children. Malaria kills an estimated 660,000 people every year of which some 85% are children under five years of age. That is roughly one death every minute of every day. Neatly 3.3 billion people, half of the world’s population, are at risk of acquiring malaria. In 2010, there were over 219 million cases of malaria. Eighty percent of all cases occurred in just 17 countries with forty percent occuring in only three countries- the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, and Nigeria.

Although malaria is most common in Africa, it is endemic in many Asia-Pacific countries including Papua New Guinea. Eighteen percent of all deaths at PNG hospitals are malaria-related. With 90% of the country at risk, approximately 800 Papua New Guineans die from malaria each year.

Malaria is a preventable and curable disease. However, many countries do not have the funding or access to the prevention services, early diagnosis, or treatments that could save thousands of lives. On World Malaria Day, April 25, we reflect on the severity and cruelty of this disease but also recognize the progress we have made towards defeating one of the world’s greatest killer diseases.

Malaria Map

Mosquito

Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito (specifically the Anopheles genus). Effective prevention involves the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) which act as a barrier between an uninfected person and a malarial mosquito. ITNs have been shown to reduce all-cause mortality in children under 5 by about 20 percent and malarial illnesses among children under 5 and pregnant women by up to 50 percent. An additional preventive measure is the use of indoor residual spraying, which repels and kills mosquitoes. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has provided malaria-endemic countries with some 310 million insecticide-treated bed nets and provided indoor residual spraying units to 44 million buildings.

Malaria is curable and there have been recent advances in treatment. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective antimalarial drugs, have been increasingly available worldwide. The number of ACT treatment courses acquired by public health authorities increased from 11.2 million in 2005 to 76 million in 2006, and 181 million in 2010. The Global Fund has played a critical role in the introduction and expansion of coverage of ACTs in many countries where resistance to older malaria drugs has increased. In addition to financing treatment for 260 million cases (cumulatively) of malaria by mid-2012, the Global Fund has been piloting a pioneering financing mechanism to improve access to ACTs by making them more affordable.

With the Global Fund’s new US$15 billion replenishment target for 2014-16, announced in Brussels earlier this month, we have every hope that malaria will soon be a problem of our past. We have come a far way in treatment and prevention of malaria, but with a child dying every minute, we clearly still have a long way to go.

Shawn Clackett

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Pacific Friends operates as a program within the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

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Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.

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