Malaria deaths in Africa set to spike, WHO warns

New pro­jec­tions sug­gest fa­tal­i­ties from dis­ease could double this year

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - GERALD IMRAY

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA—One of the hard lessons the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion learned dur­ing the Ebola out­break in West Africa was this: other dis­eases can be for­got­ten and take a dead­lier toll.

The WHO is now warning that the bat­tle against malaria in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, where it al­ready kills hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple a year, could be set back by 20 years as coun­tries fo­cus en­ergy and re­sources on con­tain­ing the coro­n­avirus. The WHO said new pro­jec­tions in­di­cate that in a worstcase sce­nario, 769,000 peo­ple could die of malaria in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa this year as cam­paigns to com­bat it are in­ter­rupted.

That’s more than double the deaths in the last de­tailed count two years ago, when more than 360,000 peo­ple died, and would be the worst fig­ures for the re­gion since 2000.

“We must not turn back the clock,” Mat­shidiso Moeti, WHO re­gional di­rec­tor for Africa, said Thurs­day.

While health ex­perts express fears that the coro­n­avirus pan­demic could erode the global fight against many dis­eases, sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is by far the worst af­fected by malaria. It had 93 per cent of the world’s cases and 94 per cent of deaths in 2018, the WHO said. The deaths were mainly chil­dren un­der the age of five.

There have al­ready been “se­vere dis­rup­tions” to anti-malaria cam­paigns and ac­cess to anti-malaria med­i­ca­tion in Africa, WHO said.

The warning came ahead of World Malaria Day on Satur­day. Malaria re­mains one of the lead­ing killers in low-in­come coun­tries. “I urge all coun­tries to not lose fo­cus on their gains made in health as they adapt to tackle this new threat,” Moeti said. “We saw with the Ebola virus dis­ease out­break in West Africa that we lost more peo­ple to malaria, for in­stance, than we lost to the Ebola out­break. Let us not re­peat that with COVID-19.”

Malaria isn’t the only con­cern. Im­mu­niza­tion cam­paigns to pro­tect chil­dren against measles, po­lio and yel­low fever are also af­fected, and not just in Africa.

JEROME DE­LAY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion said the bat­tle against malaria in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa could be set back by 20 years as coun­tries fo­cus their re­sources on con­tain­ing the coro­n­avirus.

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