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World Malaria Day 2024: urgent calls for accelerated global action against malaria

In 2022, malaria took an estimated 608,000 lives with 94% of all malaria cases in the African region[1]. Despite many efforts, it continues to pose a significant threat to public health, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women, the elderly. 

25 April 2024


Every year, on April 25th, the world celebrates World Malaria Day in an extra effort to raise awareness about the ongoing fight against this deadly disease.

As we observe World Malaria Day, it is essential to reflect on the progress made in combating malaria, the challenges that persist, and the collective efforts required to achieve a malaria-free world. While significant strides have been made in reducing malaria incidence and mortality through interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and prompt diagnosis and treatment, challenges such as drug resistance, insecticide resistance, and limited access to healthcare persist. A critical challenge in the fight against malaria is the emergence of drug-resistant malaria parasites, posing a significant obstacle to effective malaria control efforts. Antimalarial drug resistance undermines the effectiveness of treatment and poses a serious threat to malaria control efforts.

Vaccines offer hope in the fight against malaria by not only preventing the infection but also significantly reducing the burden of the disease thereby contributing towards malaria elimination. As of October 2023, WHO recommends the programmatic use of RTS,S/AS01 and R21/Matrix-M, malaria vaccines for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in malaria endemic areas[2]. The two vaccines offer tremendous hope for malaria control and eventual elimination.

The two vaccines (RTS,S/AS01 and R21/Matrix-M) are only licensed for use by infants and children. However, malaria in pregnancy is still a has a huge disease burden. In 2022, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, West Africa had the highest prevalence of malaria exposure during pregnancy, affecting approximately 6.4 million had malaria infection followed by central Africa where malaria affected around 3.4 million pregnant women in 2021, whereas in east and southern Africa 2.9 million pregnant women were infected [3].

These vaccines will accelerate malaria control and elimination in this vulnerable population. Deploying vaccines can alleviate the strain on healthcare systems by reducing the necessity for expensive treatments and mitigating the socioeconomic repercussions of malaria on affected communities.

The theme for World Malaria Day 2024, “Accelerating the fight against malaria for a more equitable world”, underscores the urgent need for coordinated action to accelerate efforts to control and eliminate malaria effectively. On World Malaria Day 2024, it is crucial that we recommit ourselves to eradicating malaria once and for all.


 

[2] WHO. World Malaria Report 2023. Geneva; 2021. Available from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240086173

[3]  WHO. World Malaria Report 2023. Geneva; 2021. Available from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240086173

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