Deaths from malaria due to disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic to services designed to fight malaria will surpass those killed by Covid-19 in Kenya and other Sub-Sahara Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
WHO said more than 409,000 people globally, most children from poorer African countries were killed by malaria last year and Covid-19 will almost certainly make that toll higher in 2020.
“Our estimates are that depending on the level of service disruption (due to COVID-19) … there could be an excess of malaria deaths of somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, most of them in young children,” Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s malaria program, told reporters.
“It’s very likely that excess malaria mortality is larger than the direct COVID mortality.”
According to the WHO report, there were 229 million malaria cases reported globally in 2019 and despite the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, most countries worldwide had fought hard and held the lie against the disease.
But the organization noted that there was “long-term success in reaching a malaria-free world within a generation is far from assured”.
Due to the ongoing transmission of malaria through mosquitoes around the world, half the global population is at risk of contracting the disease that still kills a child every two minutes.
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Despite the high numbers, the attention of the global funding has been diverted, making preventable child deaths more likely.
Peter Sands an executive director of the Global Fund to fight malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS said the report by the WHO was “extremely timely”.
“The global health world, the media, and politics, are all transfixed by COVID,…and yet we pay very little attention to a disease that is still killing over 400,000 people every year, mainly children,” he told reporters.
“And to remind you, this is a disease we do know how to get rid of – so it is a choice that we don’t.”
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