Africa’s fight against malaria is not over

Throughout the last decades, Africa has been suffering from the mosquito borne infectious disease “Malaria”. In 2013, there were 528,000 deaths  from malaria and about 78% of these were in children under 5 years of age. Per the World health organization (WHO) a child dies every minute from malaria in Africa. These statistics clearly demonstrate that we are facing a serious endemic.

Malaria is a parasitic disease that spreads between humans through the bite of infected female anopheles mosquitoes.  When the parasite enters the human bloodstream, it invades the liver then infects red blood cells.  If malaria is severe, the parasite disrupts the blood supply to vital organs, including the brain, causing seizures, coma and death. Another mode of transmission that is not well known is transmission from a mother to her child during pregnancy or during childbirth. This mode of transmission is known as congenital malaria. Initial symptoms for malaria include fever, headache, sweats, chills and vomiting, and at this stage, the immune system usually fights and controls the infection. These symptoms usually take from 10-15 days after the mosquito bite. But if not treated it can develop quickly and become more severe.

Poverty is one of the most important causes of malaria but it isn’t the only cause. Warming temperatures expand the risk area for malaria so it is typically found in tropical and subtropical climates where the parasites can live and thrive. Unfortunately, African countries have a suitable growing environment for malaria. That is why Africa is most affected by the disease. Of the world’s 117,704 in-patient malaria deaths in 2009, 111,885 occurred in Africa. Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Côte d’Ivoire are the most affected by malaria. These six countries stand for an estimated 47% of global malaria cases.

In the past, few years’ hopeful developments have been seen through African states focusing on projects aimed at controlling and eliminating malaria. Some African governments have made moderate financial commitments to this cause. One of the most important steps towards the big goal is establishing The African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA)an intergovernmental organization that is devoted to ending malaria deaths. ALMA is made up  of 49 African heads of state and governments that are  working across country and regional borders to eliminate malaria by 2030. The ALMA heads of state meet biannually during the African union summits. Additionally, he alliance gives excellence awards every year for countries efforts in reducing malaria incidences and mortality. In 2012, the alliance developed a strategy that can save up to $630 million to purchase 150 million effective long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs”) which are one of the most effective methods to eliminate malaria.

In April 2016, the WHO declared that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will pilot the world’s first malaria vaccine from 2018. Offering it for babies and children in high risk areas as part of real life trials.

And those three countries were chosen because although they run large programs to tackle malaria, including the use of LLINs, they still have a high number of cases. UN stated that each country will have the right to determine which districts and regions to be included in the pilots. The WHO also declared that the trade name for the new vaccine will be “Mosquirix”.

On  this year’s World Malaria Day, the WHO highlighted  that women in Cameroon are offered 3 or more doses of medicine as  to protect mothers and their unborn children from the destructive impact of malaria infection.  Moreover, this medication is available for free.   Additionally, the WHO recognized the great efforts that have been made by the Kenyan government. In Kenya, the dominance of malaria dropped from 11% to 8% between 2010 and 2015 Although significant progress has been made, the best is yet to come for Kenya. The biggest funder of the Kenyan malaria control program, “the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria” announced in December 2016 that their 2018-2020 budget for malaria programs in Kenya would be $63 million.

Our road towards the slogan “Africa is Malaria-free” is not over yet. There is still a long way to go, the continent requires a lot of help that does not deny that we can eliminate malaria.

Featured image : malaria test | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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