Malaria could make a comeback thanks to COVID-19

mosquitos

(Wolfgang Hasselmann, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Harry Kretchmer, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • COVID-19 disruption to anti-malaria programmes could cause deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa from malaria to double, warns the WHO.
  • Progress in fighting malaria has stalled as mosquitos and parasites gain resistance to treatment.
  • But health officials say there is still a chance to avoid deaths if the region’s leaders continue preventative measures.

While the world is focused on tackling the coronavirus, there are growing warnings not to lose sight of other health threats.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the number of deaths from malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa this year could double – and COVID-19 is to blame.

Just as measles and polio vaccine programmes are being postponed for fear any contact could spread the coronavirus, malaria could be another deadly consequence of the crisis.

 

Potentially devastating

The WHO considered nine different scenarios to determine how malaria treatment could be disrupted.

coronavirus fears malaria pandemic disease infection contamination sanitation spread virus health care italy quarantine home isolation social distancing
How health service disruptions caused by COVID-19 could impact malaria deaths.
Image: WHO

In the worst case – where all insecticide-treated net campaigns are suspended and access to antimalarial medicine falls dramatically – malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa could jump to 769,000.

That’s twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018. And to put that number into perspective, total malaria deaths worldwide were 405,000 in 2018.

Deaths caused by malaria haven’t reached those levels for two decades.

And Sub-Saharan Africa is most at risk – because that’s where 94% of all malaria deaths were in 2018, more than two-thirds among children under the age of five.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about epidemics?

Epidemics are a huge threat to health and the economy: the vast spread of disease can literally destroy societies.

In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and to enable access to them during outbreaks.

Our world needs stronger, unified responses to major health threats. By creating alliances and coalitions like CEPI, which involve expertise, funding and other support, we are able to collectively address the most pressing global health challenges.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum to tackle global health issues? Find out more here.

Progress, stalled

The campaign against malaria has been a public health success story in recent decades. Malaria deaths have reduced by half since 2000 and considerable resources have been devoted to the fight: $2.7 billion in 2018.

But even before this latest threat, concern had been growing that progress had stalled, with cases flat, rather than falling, in recent years.

coronavirus fears epidemic pandemic disease infection contamination sanitation spread virus health care
In recent years, global progress in reducing new malaria cases has levelled off.
Image: WHO

One of the chief culprits is a species of mosquito which is developing resistance to insecticide – while the parasite the mosquito transmits is also starting to resist drug treatment.

Health officials are now worried this flat trend could curve sharply upwards.

Seizing the moment

These grim projections are not, the WHO stresses, a certainty. There is a window of opportunity to mitigate the chances of a high death toll.

Although rising each week, reported COVID-19 cases in sub-Saharan Africa are still small compared to other regions.

Even in South Africa, WHO officials see signs that containment measures are proving effective against coronavirus.

Experts are now advising leaders in the region to step up mass vector campaigns (insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying) whilst doing it in such a way that minimizes the spread of COVID-19.

At the same time, preventative antimalarial treatments for pregnant women and children must be maintained. And some countries in the region have been praised for taking early, preventative action.

Lessons from history

The WHO is clear: there is no room for complacency; the consequences of stepping back from the fight could be disastrous.

“We saw with the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa that we actually lost more people to diseases that we previously were managing to control like malaria, than we lost to the outbreak itself,” says Matshidiso Moeti, director of WHO in Africa.

“Let us not repeat that with Covid-19.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Bill Gates’ top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2019

Changing how we produce and consume: New Circular Economy Action Plan shows the way to a climate-neutral, competitive economy of empowered consumers

Two shipwrecks add to ‘alarming increase’ in migrant deaths off Libya coast: IOM

COP21 Breaking News: “There is an ecological debt that the world needs to pay back to Africa”, French President Francois Hollande promises 2 Billion euros by 2020 from Paris

COVID-19: research package welcomed, EU needs to be better equipped in future

Security of 5G networks: EU Member States complete national risk assessments

The EU Commission predicts a decimated growth in the next years

Monday’s Daily Brief: WFP mulls ‘last resort’ Yemen aid suspension, top peacekeeping awardee announced, abuzz over Bee Day, Ebola threat ‘very high’

Europe’s top court hears Intel and sends € 1.06 bn antitrust fine to review

Our health systems are under pressure. Here are 9 ways to remedy that

ECB: Euro area should smooth out the consumption and income shocks of its members

Thousands returning to Nigeria’s restive Borno state ‘at risk’; UN ‘gravely concerned’

Commission report: EU data protection rules empower citizens and are fit for the digital age

Vegetarianism is good for the economy too

The future of sustainability: recycling carbon through the power of the sun

Armed groups kill Ebola health workers in eastern DR Congo

Polluted lungs: health in the center of environment discussion

Boris as UK Premier to be cornered if attempting a no-deal Brexit

These are the world’s safest cities

Celebrities are helping the UK’s schoolchildren learn during lockdown

The built environment has a huge role to play in improving health and wellbeing

South Sudan’s women caught up in ‘futile man’s war’ UN gender equality chief

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

The EU Commission vies to screen Chinese investment in Europe

This billion-dollar campaign wants to protect 30% of the planet by 2030

In the age of the tourism backlash, we need ‘destination stewards’

Young people demand a transparent job market: new campaign launches on international interns day

Security Council condemns ‘heinous and cowardly’ attack in Iran

Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2019 is ‘climate emergency’

Saudi Arabia, China, among 14 nations under UN human rights spotlight: what you need to know

‘Signs of hope’ toward a political settlement in Yemen, UN special envoy tells Security Council

India’s economy is an ‘elephant that is starting to run’, according to the IMF

We need natural solutions to fight ocean and climate risk

A day in the life of a refugee: the role of nations and citizens of the world

Jeroen Dijsselbloem new Eurogroup president

Zimbabwe facing man-made starvation, says UN expert

UN Member States overwhelmingly support end of US embargo against Cuba

UN chief urges India and Pakistan to dial down tensions in wake of Kashmir attack

Weak growth of G20 international merchandise trade in third quarter of 2018

As north-west Syria violence reaches ‘horrifying’ new level, UN relief chief says ceasefire is only option

UNICEF chief hopes 2020 will be ‘a year of peace’ for Syria’s children

I accidentally went viral on TikTok. I learned we failed our youngest generation.

SCADA Security Conference 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘End the Cage Age’ initiative

E-energy declaration: will energy digitalization be beneficial to the climate?

Warmongers ready to chew what is left of social protection spending

MEPs back plans to boost joint assessment of medicines

Mirrored classroom display highlights scale of massive education crisis

‘Crippling to our credibility’ that number of women peacekeepers is so low: UN chief

Escalation in Syria fighting cause for ‘great concern’ says UN chief, dozens more civilians dead or injured

‘Emulate his example’ urges UN chief as world celebrates Nelson Mandela: a ‘global advocate for dignity and equality’

Capital Markets Union: Making it easier for smaller businesses to get financing through capital markets

These 4 scenarios show how we might be working in the future

Aid teams respond to escalating southwest Syria conflict: 750,000 civilians are at risk

SMEs and micro firms sinking together with south Eurozone

Parliament proposes policy toolbox to curb air pollution

Sherpa climbers carried out the highest-ever spring clean. This is what they found

COP25: UN climate change conference, 5 things you need to know

Forests ‘essential’ for the future, UN agriculture chief spells out in new report

The dark side of Diwali, festival of lights

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s