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Prevented Malaria Deaths Made Visible

Malaria net distribution in Niger
Nets distribution in Niger
Voice of America

One of the problems with saving lives is it’s hard to identify a death averted. Success in disease prevention is often invisible.

You typically can’t say, for example, that 380 cases of malaria, and one death, were prevented in African children for every $1,025 spent on insecticide-treated bed nets last year.

Except now you can.

A new report published by Roll Back Malaria has applied a sophisticated new analytical method known as the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) to measure the number of lives saved over the last few years by anti-malaria efforts in Africa.

Research based on LiST done by Johns Hopkins University, Tulane University, PATH and the World Health Organization has found that the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying and preventive treatment of pregnant women in Africa over the past decade has:

  • — Saved the lives of nearly 750,000 children in 34 African countries.
  • — Continued to prevent 485 malaria child deaths per day
  • — For every $41 spent on nets, (statistically) given a child another year of life

The researchers go on to estimate that if the current trend of scaling up malaria prevention activities is sustained, 1.14 million African children’s deaths will be averted by 2015. If the scale-up could be increased and universal access to these prevention measures can be achieved, nearly three million lives can be saved.

“The findings from this report clearly show the efficacy of our efforts to save lives, especially among children in Africa,” said professor Awa Coll Seck, director of the Roll Back Malaria partnership.

Conversely, if donors do not sustain funding for these efforts to initiatives like the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, the deaths will again increase. That’s where we are at now. As the authors put it, funding for the global effort to reduce malaria mortality is in “substantial deficit” at the moment.

The same analytical tool, LiST, that showed the dramatic progress made in saving lives over the past decade can also be used to predict quite clearly what will happen if the international community fails to sustain funding for these anti-malaria efforts.

People, mostly children, will die. And the deaths will be a lot easier to count.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.