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World Malaria Day: Malaria isn’t just any disease

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Recently, the world witnessed the roll out of the first malaria vaccine pilot project in African countries, Kenya, Malawi and Ghana targeting about 360,000 children.

This marks a milestone in the fight against the killer disease that has wiped out about half of the people who have ever lived, that is approximately 50 billion since time in history.

What is this malaria disease and why is it the deadliest? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is a disease that is caused by Plasmodium Parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

A person suspected to have malaria should seek treatment promptly as the disease could develop into a severe life threatening complications such as severe anaemia or cerebral malaria.

The effects of malaria are usually more severe in pregnant women, babies, young children and the elderly.

The African region is the worst hit by the killer disease in the world. The latest statistics by the WHO estimate the number of malaria deaths stood at 435 000 in 2017, and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 93% (404,550) of the global malaria deaths.

[ Read:WHO: New malaria vaccine trial in Malawi marks ‘an innovation milestone’ ]

In the previous year, the number of deaths caused by malaria has remained virtually unchanged creating concerns on the progress of the measures adopted to fight and prevent the deadliest disease.

‘The progress in reducing the regional malaria burden is now stalling, and there has even been an increase in cases in some countries. In the World Malaria Report 2018, WHO estimates that we still have more than 4.4 million cases in our Region. With this trend, we will not meet our regional targets,” said WHO Regional director Dr Matshidiso Moet.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suffers by far the greatest malaria burden worldwide; malaria is so common in SSA that the average person sees it as an inevitable part of their existence. And the statistics are as stark as they come.

“Children under five years old are the most vulnerable of developing life threatening complications from Malaria. In Africa, every year, the killer disease accounts for about 266,000 death in children. Further, in every two minutes the disease claims a life of a child,” states WHO.

[See also: Kenya develops the first malaria vaccine ]

“Malaria is the largest killer of children, we lose about 3,000 kids everyday to the disease and over one million people die from the killer disease each year,” adds United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

More than 100 countries in the world are susceptible to malaria. Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting the disease, it is estimated that about 300-600 million suffer from Malaria yearly.

“Malaria is a major cause of poverty. The cost of malaria control and treatment drains African economies, slowing economic growth by about 1.3 per cent a year. Its prevention is an important part of poverty reduction and economic development,” states UNICEF.

[See also: Urban poor spend two times more on healthcare ]

However, the deadliest killer disease Malaria can be treated and prevented. The use of treated mosquito nets, residual indoor spraying, clearing of bushes and stagnant water and  prompt medication after a positive malaria test has saved many lives.

In solidarity to this year’s Malaria Day theme ‘Zero Malaria starts with me’, the wise men once said, prevention is better than cure.

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Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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