Achievements to Celebrate this World Malaria Day
April 25, 2011
Web and Social Media Assistant, Global Health Policy Center
Malaria kills 800,000 people around the world every year. Of this number, 90% of fatalities occur in sub-Saharan Africa and a substantial majority of these deaths are children under the age of five. While these numbers appear stark, there are many achievements to celebrate on this World Malaria Day.
In the past ten years, two countries – Morocco and Turkmenistan – have eradicated malaria entirely; forty-three previously endemic malaria countries today show a reduction of more than 50% in confirmed cases; and twenty seven countries are now in the process of implementing preventive programs. It is estimated that three quarters of a million children in 34 African countries have been saved in the past ten years due to various preventative measures including the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), indoor spraying, effective medicines and protective treatment during pregnancy. Additionally because of such efforts, global malaria deaths have dropped from nearly one million in the year 2000 to 781,000 in 2009.
One organization that is making a significant contribution to these outcomes is Nothing But Nets. Partnered with the UN Foundation, Nothing But Nets set out in 2006 to distribute 300 million ITNs across sub-Saharan Africa. While this goal seemed impossible at the time, in just five years, Nothing But Nets impressively has only 30 million more ITNs to deliver. Known to be the most effective tool against malaria, insecticide-treated bed nets last for three to five years and when properly used, can reduce malaria incidence by 90%. Because of this aggressive campaign and others like it, 75% of sub-Saharan Africa is now covered by ITNs compared to 5% in the year 2000. The goal of Nothing But Nets and other comparable organizations is to eradicate malaria by the year 2015.
Though an ambitious target, the people behind Nothing But Nets are also realistic. On a recent phone call, they admitted that there are still challenges ahead. One challenge, for example, is that in some cases bed nets are misused – where one net should only cover one to two people, sometimes it is used for as many as five people. Additionally, the remaining 30 million nets that Nothing But Nets needs to distribute must be delivered to some of the most difficult areas in the world. The country that was frequently cited was Côte d'Ivoire. Due to violence and disorder since the country’s elections in November 2010, millions of nets are currently laying in a warehouse unused. Beyond this fact, the thousands of people who fled the country’s violence are more susceptible to the disease. Indeed malaria is the leading cause of refugee deaths in Africa and refugee camps are ideal places for the disease to spread.
Though there are significant challenges ahead, the work of Nothing but Nets and other organizations is something to be applauded. The Millennium Development Goals call for a halt to the spread of malaria. Through the hard work of government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector, we have already reversed the course of the disease – with several countries near eradication and several others where the disease has been totally eradicated.
World Malaria Day is both about raising malaria awareness as much as it is a call to action. On this World Malaria Day link it, blog it, and spread the word.