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2021 World Malaria Report : Revised statistics give a clearer picture

The World Malaria Report 2021 has recently been released by the WHO. This year, a new methodology was used to calculate the malaria mortality rate in children under 5 since 2000. This has led to revisions in malaria statistics from 2000 till date.

The following are some of the key messages from the report:

  • Although the WHO predicted a doubling of malaria-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, malaria-endemic countries averted the worst-case scenario through innovative and urgent responses. 10.6 million lives have been saved and 1.7 billion cases have been prevented since 2000. However, progress against the disease remains uneven. Sub-Saharan Africa still shoulders the heaviest part of the global malaria burden with 95% of global cases and 96% of deaths from the region and it is at risk of losing more ground. 
  • Overall, there were an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths and 241 million malaria cases in 2020 demonstrating a rise in global malaria cases (by 14 million) and deaths (by 69,000) between 2019 and 2020. Two-thirds of the increase in mortality recorded was linked to disruptions in malaria interventions due to COVID-19. 
  • A child dies every minute from malaria. One in twelve global deaths for children under 5 is caused by malaria. These new and more accurate statistics based on the new methodology show that the impact of malaria on children under 5 is almost double previous estimates.
  • Since 2000, 23 countries reached 3 consecutive years of zero malaria. The WHO has certified 12 countries as malaria-free in the same period, with China and El-Salvador receiving their certification during the pandemic. In high burden countries the story is different. Drug and insecticide resistance are some critical challenges to malaria elimination and to achieving the Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 (GTS) targets. Innovation and intensified efforts at implementing current tools are essential to meet the proposed 90% reduction in global malaria cases and deaths by 2030.

Gene drive mosquitoes are innovative approaches to vector-control which could potentially help even out progress on a global scale. Ifakara Health Institute, Target Malaria and University of California, Irvine Malaria Initiative are examples of institutions exploring the use of gene drive tools to help eliminate malaria. Alongside existing tools, gene drive approaches could be a cost-effective, sustainable, and long-term solution tool which may assist high burden countries to gain more ground.

Access the full report here.


Isabelle Coche

Isabelle has significant experience in advocacy and communications at the international and regional levels, and a broad knowledge of development and agriculture issues acquired through previous work in international organisations, private sector and NGOs. She has also successfully led key public affairs projects in highly sensitive issues, such as agricultural biotechnology and intellectual property rights. Isabelle holds a master in gender studies from the London School of Economics and a BA Honours in Political Science and Economics from McGill University. She has lived and worked in Africa and Asia and speaks fluently English and French.

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