HOPES of eliminating malaria from more than 30 countries with a total population of 2 billion have risen following the successful removal of the disease from Sri Lanka.
Public health officials said 13 countries, including Argentina and Turkey, had reported no cases for at least a year and may well follow the success of Sri Lanka, which recently declared itself malaria-free after meeting the criterion of going three years without an infection.
By the end of the decade, another 21 countries, including Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, South Africa, Swaziland, China, Malaysia and Iran, could be free of the disease, which kills 400,000 people, mostly babies and pregnant women, every year.
REMAINS ACUTE HEALTH PROBLEM
Despite tremendous progress, malaria remains an acute public health problem in many regions. In 2015 alone, there were 214 million new cases of malaria reported, and approximately 438,000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease, 70% of whom are children under five, still die from this preventable disease every year, according to UNICEF.
Between 2000 and 2015, malaria mortality rate has fallen by 60% and the number of malaria cases has fallen by 37% globally. As result, 6.2 million lives saved over the last 15 years of which 5.7 million are children under five.
The broader news, however, is strongly positive.
Over the last 15 years, the delivery of core malaria interventions has undergone an unprecedented expansion.
SAVING THE CHILDREN
Since 2000, one billion insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been distributed in Africa. The introduction of rapid diagnostic tests has made it possible to distinguish more quickly between malarial and nonmalarial fevers – enabling more timely and appropriate treatment.
Progress in reaching children under the age of 5 – one of the most vulnerable groups affected by malaria – has been especially encouraging. By 2015, an estimated 68% of under-fives in sub-Saharan Africa were sleeping under insecticide-treated nets, compared to less than 2% in 2000. Over a 15-year period, the under-five global malaria death rate fell by 65%.
90% of malaria deaths in the world occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.
About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria.