World Malaria Day is marked annually on 25 April to focus global attention on malaria and its devastating impact on families, communities and societal development, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Malaria is a serious infection spread by mosquitoes. It can take just a mosquito bite to get malaria and if it’s not diagnosed and treated quickly, it may lead to death.
According to the World Health Organization, WHO, malaria remains a significant public health and development challenge. In the last year, about 95% of the estimated 228 million cases occurred in the WHO/AFRO Region , along with 602 020 reported deaths. Also, malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260 000 African children under the age of five die from malaria annually.
The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives”. This aligns with WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s call to urgently scale up innovation and the deployment of new tools in the fight against malaria, while advocating for equitable access to malaria prevention and treatment, within the context of building health system resilience.
Experts said malaria killed no fewer than 200,000 Nigerians and afflicted 61 million others in 2021. WHO said Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Tanzania and Mozambique accounted for over half of all malaria deaths.
How to prevent malaria
- Apply mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) to exposed skin.
- Use of insecticide and mosquito coil
- Sleep under treated mosquito net every night.
- Ensure you put net on windows and always keep your doors shut in the morning and evening.
- Wear long trousers and long sleeves to cover your skin.
- Avoid stagnant water in your environment as it house and encourages breeding of more mosquitoes.
Moeti said “The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of people catching and dying from malaria. This requires a focus on research and on leveraging available evidence to ensure that our targeted interventions are an efficient use of resources, which produce measurable results.
“We also need to work on drug and insecticide resistance, as well as focus on new strains of malaria arising in the Region, which are more difficult to detect and treat.
“To this end, the WHO has called for investments and innovation that bring new vector control approaches, diagnostics, anti-malarial medicines and other tools to speed up the pace of progress against malaria”.
It would be recalled that the WHO has recommended the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission. The recommendation is based on results from pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
World Malaria Day today is an occasion to renew political commitment and encourage continued investment in malaria prevention and control. WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti call on countries and communities affected by malaria to work closely with development partners to advance our countries along the road to elimination, while contributing to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals.
“I believe we can overcome the challenge if we collaborate closely with governments, partners and communities.
“Together, we can accelerate our efforts to achieve a malaria-free Africa”.
As we mark the World Malaria Day, take steps to prevent malaria today.