Malaria is a disease that is a leading cause of illness. It is caused by microscopic protozoa called Plasmodium and transmitted from an infected person by a blood-sucking female Anopheles mosquito. In 2018 alone, WHO, reported over 228 million cases of malaria worldwide, 93% of which were in Africa.
Malaria is both curable and preventable, but the parasite’s transformative life cycle makes it difficult for scientists to treat it by drugs and vaccines.
Over the last 115 years, scientists have directed their efforts in creating alternative medicines in hopes of control malaria. Though in Africa there are serious challenges such as the rise of insecticide and drug resistance and fragility of the health systems.
A report by the World Health Organization reveals that 3.2 billion people approximately half of the world population are at risk of being infected by Malaria.
Africa not only bears the brunt of infections but also of Malaria deaths. In 2018 for example, of the 405,000 Malaria deaths globally, 94% of them were in Africa. Of these deaths, 67% were of children under the age of 5 years.
Considering that Africa is challenged in the fight against Malaria because of the health infrastructure, a climate that is favorable for mosquito breeding, very aggressive mosquito species, and economic factors. It is clear why it is not an easy war to win.
I agree that the strategy sets ambitious but achievable global targets, including:
- Reducing malaria case incidence by at least 90% by 2030;
- Reducing malaria mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030;
- Eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries by 2030;
- Preventing a resurgence of malaria in all malaria-free countries.
The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), recommends the following Malaria control, treatment, and prevention interventions. The choice of interventions depends on the malaria transmission level in the area.
- Case management (diagnosis and treatment) of patients with malaria
- Insecticide-treated nets (ITNs)
- Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnant women (IPTp)
- Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in infancy (IPTi)
- Indoor residual spraying (IRS)
In malaria-endemic areas, mainly in Africa, four interventions—case management (diagnosis and treatment), ITNs, IPTp, and IRS—make up the essential package of malaria interventions.
Occasionally, other interventions are used:
- Larval control and other vector control interventions
- Mass drug administration, Mass Screening, and Testing, and Mass fever treatment
However, these strategies are hampered by insecticide resistance, the emergence of resistance to malaria drugs, and sub-optimal community uptake of interventions.
To eradicate malaria and to stay on track for the achievement of the WHO Global Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 targets, more research and development to address resistance challenges will be needed, and adopting a ‘whole of society approach’. This will ensure that affected communities are meaningfully engaged and take part in malaria control and prevention efforts that are spearheaded by governments and partner organizations.