World Health Organization warns malaria fight flat-lining

A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan

A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan

The World Malaria Report 2020, released on Monday, said that in 2019, malaria cases globally numbered about 229 million, an annual estimate that has remained virtually unchanged over the last four years.

In 2019, the disease claimed about 409,000 lives, compared to 411,000 in 2018.

In its World Malaria Report 2020, the WHO said progress against the mosquito-borne disease was plateauing, particularly in African countries bearing the brunt of cases and deaths.

Outside of Africa, it said India had continued to make impressive gains over the last two years, with an 18-percent reduction in cases and a 20-percent reduction in deaths. In India, cases were down by 1.2 million over the last two years.

In the WHO South-East Asia Region, malaria deaths reduced by 74 per cent, from about 35,000 in 2000 to 9,000 in 2019.

Cape Town - Although Africa continues to be the region in the world hardest hit by malaria, it has made major gains in reducing the number of cases - and deaths - over the past decade. Robust political commitment, together with innovations in new tools and a steep increase in funding, catalysed an unprecedented period of success in global malaria control.

More than 409 000 people globally - a lot of them babies in the poorest parts of Africa - were killed by malaria a year ago, the World Health Organization said in its latest global malaria report, and Covid-19 will nearly certainly make that toll higher in 2020.

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But there were concerns that with efforts to tackle the disease flatlining, the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis could prevent further progress.

As in past years, the African region accounted for more than 90 per cent of the overall disease burden.

In 2000, African leaders signed the landmark Abuja Declaration pledging to reduce malaria deaths on the continent by 50 per cent over a 10-year period. A recent analysis from Nigeria, for example, found that through an optimized mix of interventions, the country could avert tens of millions of additional cases and thousands of additional deaths by the year 2023, compared to a business-as-usual approach.

A funding shortfall at both the worldwide and domestic levels poses a "significant threat" to future gains, according to WHO.

In 2019, the US$3 billion in funding fell short of a global goal of $5.6 billion.

López-Gatell has scolded the media for "being alarmist" about the pandemic and bristled at criticism that the Mexican government is undercounting COVID-19 deaths or providing contradictory and weak advice on wearing masks.

It's feared that a shortage of funds for anti-malaria programmes will be worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

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