Flickr, by ACJ1
Malaria hovers over Africa
The World Health Organization issued a report this week on how we’re doing in the battle against malaria.
We’re doing quite well, thank you very much, at least in terms of getting existing tools of prevention like bed nets and household insecticides to millions more people. Says the WHO:
A massive scale-up in malaria control programmes between 2008 and 2010 has resulted in the provision of enough insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) to protect more than 578 million people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Indoor residual spraying has also protected 75 million people, or 10% of the population at risk in 2009.
This rapid expansion in distributing these preventive measures across Africa has been accompanied by a significant decline in malaria cases and deaths, the WHO reports, generally amounting to a 50 percent reduction in malaria morbidity and mortality over the past decade.
As NPR’s Richard Knox reports, such progress remains fragile but many believe the “End to Malaria Deaths is in Sight.” Knox says:
Imagine a world where malaria doesn’t kill a single person. Look ahead to 2015 and that could be close to reality.
He quotes several top experts enthusiastic enough about the possibility that the positive trends in beating back malaria to predict that this is achievable. But Knox goes on to point out the many challenges ahead, funding shortfalls, drug resistance and so forth.
The Guardian similarly reports “Malaria in Retreat” but the gains are fragile, in response to the WHO report. The newspaper quotes the chief of the WHO:
“The results set out in this report are the best seen in decades,” said WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan. “After so many years of deterioration and stagnation in the malaria situation, countries and their development partners are now on the offensive. Current strategies work.”
From a different angle and on a more downbeat note, perhaps, Reuters takes a hard look at what’s being done to create the only tool that some experts say will really be able to completely conquer malaria — a vaccine. In an extensive article, Reuters reporters look at the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on research to come up with an effective malaria vaccine and ask:
The bottom-line question: is the vaccine — and the global health community’s aim of completely eradicating a disease that kills a child every 45 seconds — really worth the money?
The report immediately goes on to say that it “seems an absurd thing to ask.” Take a look at the article and decide for yourself if they proved it wasn’t.