The World Health Organization reports a significant increase in malaria cases and deaths in 2020 due to COVID-19 disruptions to malaria services.
Over the past two decades, the global malaria mortality rate has been halved, saving 10.6 million lives. New data collected by the WHO shows that COVID-19 has halted and even reversed progress made in reducing deaths from this preventable, treatable disease.
NS WHO’s World Malaria Report It is estimated that there will be 241 million malaria cases and 627,000 malaria deaths globally in 2020. This represents an increase of 14 million cases and 69,000 deaths over the previous year. The WHO links this increase to the disruption of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment services during the pandemic.
Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, said the situation could get worse. He said the good news is that the predicted doomsday scenario didn’t come to fruition. They noted that the dismal projections of a massive increase in malaria in March 2020 have not materialized.
“The doubling of malaria deaths lies in the worst-case scenario. So, I want to reiterate, it is not. We can call this a success story, even if an additional 47,000 people died as a result of the disruptions,” Alonso said.
Progress in the global fight against malaria remains uneven, the report said.
Between 2000 and 2020, WHO certified 12 countries as malaria-free. Two countries, China and El Salvador, achieved this status in 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic.
Since 2015, both cases and deaths have stopped in most of the world’s 93 endemic countries and territories. However, other figures show that malaria cases have increased in 32 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and some in South America.
Alonso said the situation remains particularly precarious in Africa, where the malaria burden is unacceptably high. They noted that Africa accounts for about 96 percent of global deaths, 80 percent among children under the age of five.
“At the same time, the pandemic is not over, and the pace of economic recovery remains uncertain. Without immediate and prompt action a key 2030 target of the WHO global technical strategy will be missed, and additional ground could be lost,” he said.
The WHO strategy calls for a 90 percent reduction in malaria cases and deaths by 2030. It also pushes for the eradication of malaria in at least 35 countries and the prevention of disease resurgence in all malaria-free countries.