Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. If diagnosed and treated timely, it is treatable and curable. WHO joins partner organisations in promoting this year’s World Malaria Day theme, Ready to Beat Malaria. The chosen theme “Ready to beat Malaria” underscores the collective energy and commitment of the global malaria community in uniting around the common goal of a world free of malaria. It highlights the remarkable progress achieved in tackling one of humanity’s oldest diseases, while also calling out worrying trends as captured in the 2017 World malaria report:
- The global response to malaria is at a crossroads. After an unprecedented period of success in malaria control, progress has stalled.
- The current pace is insufficient to achieve the 2020 milestones of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 – specifically, targets calling for a 40% reduction in malaria case incidence and death rates.
- Countries with ongoing transmission are increasingly falling into one of two categories: those moving towards elimination and those with a high burden of the disease that have reported significant increases in malaria cases.
Without urgent action, the major gains in the fight against malaria are under threat. On this World Malaria Day, WHO continues to call for greater investment and expanded coverage of proven tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.
Malaria is an acute febrile illness. In a non-immune individual, symptoms usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache, and chills– may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.
Children with severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anaemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ involvement is also frequent. In malaria endemic areas, people may develop partial immunity, allowing asymptomatic infections to occur.
Who is at risk?
In 2016, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the WHO regions of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas are also at risk. In 2016, 91 countries and areas had ongoing malaria transmission.
Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others. These include infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers. National malaria control programmes need to take special measures to protect these population groups from malaria infection, taking into consideration their specific circumstances.
According to the latest World Malaria Report, released in November 2017, there were 216 million cases of malaria in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 445 000 in 2016, a similar number to the previous year (446 000).
The WHO African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2016, the region was home to 90% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths. Some 15 countries – all in sub-Saharan Africa, except India – accounted for 80% of the global malaria burden.
In areas with high transmission of malaria, children under 5 are particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death; more than two thirds (70%) of all malaria deaths occur in this age group. The number of under-5 malaria deaths has declined from 440 000 in 2010 to 285 000 in 2016. However, malaria remains a major killer of children under five years old, taking the life of a child every two minutes.
India puts into motion measures to control of vector borne diseases
Back home, J P Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, held a high level meeting to review the preparedness of the Ministry for prevention and control of vector borne diseases likekalaazar, dengue, malaria and chickungunya in the country, on 25 April 2018. During the meeting, Nadda directed the officials for mounting aggressive IEC campaigns to enhance awareness on prevention and control of vectors before the season starts.
At the review meeting, Preeti Sudan, Secretary (Health), and other senior officers of the Union Health Ministry, National Vector-Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were also present in the meeting. Here, Nadda stated that he will speak to the Health Ministers of the endemic States to ensure that they are prepared with all the necessary medicines, kits etc. He further said that he will also ask them to take up aggressive IEC in their states.
Nadda also asked Secretary (Health) to speak to the State Health Secretaries to gear up for the prevention and control of vector borne diseases. The Health Minister further directed the officials and Nodal officers to visitkalaazar endemic States of Jharkhand and Bihar immediately and report to him by next Wednesday. Nadda also directed the officials to organise and complete the Training of Trainers (ToT) for ventilator management for 125 doctors for management of H1NI cases, well in time.