With drug and insecticide resistance on the rise and slow progress in reducing cases and deaths, the clock is ticking on malaria. The EU must join other health leaders and scale up its efforts to fight the disease, writes Charles Goerens.
Charles Goerens is a Member of the European Parliament for Luxembourg. He sits with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and also is the Vice-Chair of Friends of the Global Fund Europe.
A mosquito bite is a nuisance to those who live in Europe. But for nearly half of the world’s population, this bite can inflict severe illness, and even result in death for pregnant women and young children. The disease is malaria, which is caused by parasites in the anopheles mosquito. With drug and insecticide resistance on the rise, and millions still not benefitting from vector control, the clock is ticking on malaria.
In the early 2000s, the international community made immense progress in controlling and starting to eliminate malaria. 7 million lives have been saved, and since 2010, 11 countries have eliminated malaria. Several are on track to do so by 2020. The malaria map is shrinking.
But warning signs have appeared. For the first time in a decade, there were more malaria cases than in the previous year. 216 million cases were reported in 2016 compared to 211 million in 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, progress is stalling in reducing mortality: 445,000 deaths in 2016 down from 446,000 in 2015. And one grim statistic still challenges us: a child still dies every 2 minutes from malaria.
Malaria both causes and results in poverty. People afflicted with malaria or who have family members suffering from it, lose work hours, have to pay for treatment or travel to a clinic or hospital, and pay for funeral costs in the event of a death. The WHO African region has the heaviest disease burden with 90% percent of cases worldwide.
Thanks to better science, we know that malaria results in losses of $12 billion per year and 1.3% of lost annual GDP growth in Africa. Yet in malarial regions, 45% of people do not sleep under insecticide treated nets (ITN). Unfortunately, it is also in Africa where the first signs of insecticide resistance are appearing, although experts insist that nets and indoor residual spraying (IRS) still offer great amounts of prevention in most settings.
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