LAS VEGAS — It is estimated that half of the world’s population suffers from malaria. At least 3.2 billion people are plagued by this preventable disease and at least 584,000 deaths occurred in 2013 because of it. Malaria infection and malaria related deaths remain high in rural regions where many people lack access to healthcare.
There are 97 countries with ongoing malaria transmission, with children in Sub-Saharan African countries suffering the most. In these countries, 78 percent of children under the age of five are infected with the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said, “Malaria still kills an estimated 627,000 people every year, mainly children under 5 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa.”
In the face of these bleak facts, it is difficult to see the end of this life-threatening disease. However, thanks to organizations like WHO and UNICEF, the international efforts against malaria have had an incredible impact countering the disease. From 2000 to 2013, the cases of malaria deaths dropped by 47 percent and 64 of the 97 high risk countries are currently on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals that focus on reversing incidences of malaria. According to the U.N., more than four million malarial deaths have been averted since 2001, thanks to an increase in investment toward malaria prevention and eradication.
Yet, the fight against malaria has not been quelled and World Malaria Day has made sure it is not forgotten. Established in 2007 by WHO, World Malaria Day, held every April 25, commemorates the positive developments in malaria treatment, but it also reminds the global community that there is still a great deal of work to be done.
World Malaria Day offers a platform for nations to come together to share their ideas on how malaria can be effectively eradicated, to celebrate the achievements of the global healthcare community and to discuss how those who are most affected by it can be treated. If the proper measures are not meted out, it is likely that a rise in avoidable cases of malaria will occur.
World Malaria Day staff said, “Unless the world can find a way to bridge the funding gaps and endemic countries have the resources and technical support they need to implement sound malaria control plans, malaria resurgence will likely take many more lives.”
As a part of the World Malaria Day campaign, WHO has released a manual that provides a framework and various strategies that will help nations develop programs that will lead to the eradication of malaria by 2020. This manual was designed with endemic countries in mind, making sure that the frameworks and strategies outlined in the manual would contribute to WHO’s goal of eliminating malaria globally. The cost of eliminating malaria in the Sustainable Development Goals’ 2016- 2030 time period is estimated at $100 billion. With such a large cost, it is important that World Malaria Day continues to advocate for investment in the ‘getting to zero’ effort in malaria eradication.
The World Malaria Day theme since 2013 has been ‘Invest in the future, Defeat malaria.’ This theme places an emphasis on the foreseeable goal of the complete eradication of malaria in this decade. At a time when developments in technology and healthcare are being produced at an incredible rate, a preventable disease such as malaria is soon to be a thing of the past, like smallpox and other infectious diseases that have been eradicated through the efforts of global investment, advocacy and awareness.
– Candice Hughes
Sources: WHO 1, WHO 2, UN 1, UN 2, World Malaria Day
Photo: Red Cross