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Malaria status & challenges of the epidemic

1. Introduction

    Anopheles mosquito, the vector for malaria
    Anopheles mosquito, the vector for malaria
    Source: CDC

    Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases and a great public health problem worldwide, particularly in Africa and south Asia. About three billion people are at risk of infection in 109 countries. Each year, there are an estimated 250 million cases of malaria leading to approximately one million deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. The organism that causes the most dangerous form of malaria is a microscopic parasite called Plasmodium falciparum.

    This parasite is transmitted by mosquito species belonging to the Anopheles genus and only by females of those species.

    There is growing international agreement on how best to use prevention and treatment methods that are available. The most effective prevention measures include the use of mosquito bed nets treated with long-lasting insecticides – to avoid the mosquito bites and to kill the mosquitoes – and spraying the inside walls of houses with similar insecticides to kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The most effective treatment for malaria consists in using a combination of several anti-malarial drugs, one of which is a derivative of artemisinin. Preventive treatment of pregnant women with anti-malarial drugs can also reduce the harmful effects of malaria both on the mother and on the unborn child.

    Several international organisations have set up ambitious objectives for large-scale malaria control. The target set by the Word Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 is to offer malaria prevention and treatment services by 2010 to at least 80% of the people who need them. By doing so, it aims to reduce at least by half the proportion of people who become ill or die from malaria by 2010 and at least by three quarters by 2015 compared to 2005.

    It is vital to monitor malaria trends to see if malaria control campaigns are being effective, and to make improvements.

    The WHO World Malaria Report 2008 estimates the number of malaria cases and deaths for the period 2001-2006 in affected countries and investigates whether or not WHO recommendations are being implemented. It evaluates progress made against the disease it also describes the sources of funding and reviews the impact of malaria control programmes. The aim of the report is to support the development of effective national malaria control programmes.

    This text is a summary of: WHO, World Malaria Report (2008) ,
    Introduction, p.1