Malaria deaths have dropped dramatically since 2000 and cases are falling steadily thanks to more people being diagnosed and treated, and more getting bed nets, the WHO said yesterday.
However, progress against the mosquito-borne infection remains fragile and West African countries suffering an unprecedented epidemic of Ebola are particularly at risk of seeing a resurgence of malaria, the UN health agency said.
In its annual report on the disease, the WHO said the malaria death rate fell by 47 percent worldwide between 2000 and last year and by 54 percent in Africa, where about 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur.
It also found that despite a 43 percent increase in population in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer people in the region are infected every year.
“The next few years are going to be critical to show that we can maintain momentum and build on the gains,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s global malaria program.
In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak has had a “devastating impact” on malaria treatment and the rollout of malaria control programs, the report said.
Many inpatient clinics in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are closed and attendance at outpatient facilities is a fraction of rates seen before the outbreak, it said.
With a major malaria threat in these countries, which together saw about 6.6 million cases and 20,000 malaria deaths last year, the WHO called for temporary control measures, including giving malaria drugs to all patients with fever and carrying out mass treatment in areas hard hit by both Ebola and malaria.
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