NAIROBI, 2 January 2021 – The World Health Organization (WHO) is deeply concerned that the focus on the new coronavirus may lead to missed targets in the fight against malaria.
“If we remain on our present course, we will miss the global targets for 2030,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“More people will have died of malaria than COVID-19” by the end of 2020, Moeti told reporters.
Malaria death rates are rose sharply as 2020 drew to a close and 2021 was rung in.
Resources initially meant for malaria prevention were rechanneled to COVID-19-related programs.
Moeti told reporters he is “deeply concerned” that WHO will not reach its malaria prevention and eradication targets for 2020.
The global health body had projected that there would be 90 percent fewer cases of malaria and deaths by 2020, compared to 2015.
The projections also said “more than 25 countries” were expected to be malaria-free by the end of 2020.
Malaria, on average, kills more than 400,000 people a year.
Two-thirds of those killed by malaria worldwide are children under the age of five, according to the 2020 edition of the World Malaria Report.
The deatjs are totally preventable because malaria is treatable, advocates regret.
World Malaria Report celebrates the progress made in fighting the disease, referring to the last two decades as “a period of unprecedetented success in malaria control”.
According to the report, “1.5 billion cases and 7.6 million deaths” caused by malaria were averted over the last two decades.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites transited to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors”.
There were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide In 2019, the most recent year for which the World Health Organization has reliable data.
Malaria deaths in 2019 were estimated at 409,000, woth children under the age of five accouting for 67 percent (274,000) of all malaria deaths.
The bulk of the malaria cases as well as fatalities – 94 percent in all – occurred in Africa, according to WHO Africa Region.
Funding for malaria control and eradication programs reached an estimated $3 billion in 2019, with malaria-endemic countries contributing about 31 percent ($900 million), according to WHO.