Keeping Track of Malaria in the COVID-19 Global Pandemic
The story of the fight against malaria since the early 2000s has been one of success. The number of global deaths from the disease, which rose to 1 million in the year 2000, has now been halved. A child has a better chance of being diagnosed with malaria, receiving effective treatment and fully recovering today than at any other time in history.
These outstanding results have been achieved by way of herculean concerted efforts and strategic partnerships involving global institutions, national malaria programs, communities affected by the disease and the private sector. In particular, the work of organizations such as The Global Fund, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Rotarian Malaria Partners and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been instrumental in helping to turn the vision of a malaria-free world into a reality.
We are now at a turning point in the history of malaria eradication. The World Malaria Report for 2019 indicates that global progress against malaria has been plateauing across all affected regions for the past three years. On top of this, the emergence and propagation of COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on the implementation of malaria programs worldwide: valuable resources have been diverted to stop the onslaught of the virus, preventative and diagnostic systems disrupted, and case management campaigns such as indoor residual spraying (IRS) halted by local lockdowns. Programs to combat the mosquito-borne disease worldwide are facing a looming challenge, with recent modelling indicating that 20 years of progress could be lost.
This is especially true for so-called ‘high-burden’ countries, in which domestic financing for malaria programs has also come under pressure due to dramatic COVID-19 economic impacts.
Although the malaria community has been exceptional at finding ways to adapt vector control programs and campaigns so that they can continue to happen, stronger efforts need to be made to ensure we don’t give the disease the chance to make a comeback. We must redouble our efforts in the fight against malaria and invest in the creation of stronger and more resilient partnerships, both at the community and global level. As Dr. Gates reminds us, whilst COVID-19 continues to spread, we mustn’t lose track of malaria.
Emerging Ag is very glad to be able to contribute through its work with Target Malaria, a not-for-profit research consortium that aims to develop and share new, cost-effective and sustainable technologies to reduce malaria transmission.
Covid-19 may have provided the opportunity for malaria to bounce back, but it has also taught us a valuable lesson: concerted efforts at the community and global level are invaluable in mobilising efforts to fight disease. Let us build on lessons learnt and come together to turn the vision of a malaria-free world into a permanent reality.