A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that cases of malaria and deaths caused by the disease shot up in 2020 in Africa as the continent battled the Covid 19 scourge.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, revealed in the report that the severe disruption of services due to Covid 19-related restrictions such as lockdowns pushed malaria cases to more than 14 million while there was an increase of 47, 000 related deaths in 2020.
“Things could have been far worse if not for the efforts of malaria-endemic countries to maintain services. Even before the pandemic, global progress against malaria had levelled off, and countries with a high burden of the disease were losing ground,” said Ghebreyesus.
The report indicates that in 2020, 80 per cent of malaria deaths in Africa were among children. 481500 children under five lost their lives.
The African region accounts for 95 per cent of all malaria cases and 96 per cent of all deaths from the mosquito induced disease.
“Now, critical 2020 milestones of WHO’s global malaria strategy have been missed, and without immediate and dramatic action, the 2030 targets will not be met.
“Using better data and more accurate methodology, it suggests the disease has claimed many more young lives over the past two decades than previously reported,” said the WHO director, Ghebreyesus.
He further warned that the situation could get worse.
“The situation now is especially precarious. Without accelerated action, we are in danger of seeing an immediate resurgence of the disease, particularly in Africa,” he said.
In 2020, WHO spent US$3.3 billion fighting malaria globally, the report reveals.
However, Ghebreyesus said more was needed.
“The roughly US$ 3.3 billion spent fighting malaria in 2020 will need to more than triple in the next 10 years to successfully implement the global strategy. Malaria has afflicted humanity for millennia. We have the tools and strategy now to save many lives – and with new tools, to start to dream of a malaria-free-world,” he said.
Malaria is mostly dominant in rural parts of Africa. It is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people if bitten by infected female mosquitoes called Anopheles. The disease is preventable and curable.
On 20 April 2021, the ministry of Health in Zimbabwe announced that 170,303 malaria cases had been reported nationwide in 2020, including 152 deaths, representing a 44.7 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019.