The World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned that the number of deaths caused by malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa could double to 769,000 this year, as efforts to curb the disease are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Currently, governments in the region are working with partners such as WHO, to tackle the pandemic, which has seen 25,000 confirmed cases with more than 1,200 deaths
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, called on all countries to ensure that essential malaria prevention work continues.
Moeti, at a briefing, said:
A recent analysis has found that if insecticide-treated bed net distribution stops, and case management reduces, malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double in comparison to 2018.
This would be the highest number of deaths seen in the region since the year 2000.”
She cited statistics from Africa’s ebola outbreak showing that more people died of other diseases, including malaria than from ebola, due to lack of access to treatment.
Let us not repeat that again with COVID-19.
There were 213 million malaria cases and 360,000 related deaths in the African region, in 2018, accounting for over 90 per cent of global cases.
According to the health organization, if the focus on slowing the spread of the virus leads to a reduction by three-quarters of access to anti-malaria medicines, deaths could double to 769,000.
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,” the WHO said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the WHO said that this number of deaths represents the worst-case scenario, which also assumes the suspension of all distribution of treated mosquito nets due to the pandemic.
In the meantime WHO added that the Republic of Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Chad have all initiated anti-malaria programmes in the face of the pandemic, adding that the initiative should serve as a model for other nations on the continent.