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RISE TO 769,000

Malaria deaths to double this year, says WHO

Kenya says it will scale-up campaigns

In Summary

• This is a worst-case scenario, and would be the worst malaria devastation in Africa in the last 20 years. 

•The modelling analysis was released by WHO and partners ahead of World Malaria Day tomorrow.

A woman demonstrates how to use mosquito nets
WORLD MALARIA DAY: A woman demonstrates how to use mosquito nets
Image: /FILE

Malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double to 769,000 this year due to disruptions caused by Covid-19, the World Health Organization has said. 

This is a worst-case scenario, and would be the worst malaria devastation in Africa in the last 20 years, and double the deaths witnessed in 2018. 

"The estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769,000, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018. This would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen 20 years ago," the statement says.

The WHO projection assumes Covid-19 would lead to severe disruptions of insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines.

The modelling analysis was released by WHO and partners ahead of Saturday's World Malaria Day.

"WHO urges countries to move fast and distribute malaria prevention and treatment tools at this stage of the Covid-19 outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa, and to do their utmost to safely maintain these essential malaria control services," WHO said in a statement.

Their analysis considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic in 41 countries, and the resulting increases that may be seen in cases and deaths. 

The worst-case scenario is when all insecticide-treated net (ITN) campaigns are suspended and there is a 75 per cent reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines.

Kenya's Ministry of Health said the country will not relent on anti-malaria campaigns, which would save the country from such a scenario.

"Recent achievements in the scale-up of interventions has enabled 83 per cent of households in the counties most affected by malaria have at least one long-lasting insecticide-treated net," Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman said in a statement.

"Seventy-five of the de facto household members have access to a long-lasting insecticide-treated net."

About 20,000 Kenyans, mostly children, are killed by malaria every year, according to the ministry.

According to the World Malaria Report 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93 per cent of all malaria cases and 94 per cent of deaths in 2018. More than two-thirds of deaths were among children aged under five years.

To date, the number of reported cases of Covid-19 in sub-Saharan Africa has represented only a small proportion of the global total, though cases are increasing every week.

This means that countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimise disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Edited by A.N