COVID-19 service-related disruptions responsible for 69,000 additional malaria deaths in 2020, says new WHO report
Global efforts to tackle malaria suffered due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 2020, according to the World Malaria Report 2021 released December 6.
If expeditious action is not taken, the world is in the danger of seeing an immediate resurgence of the disease, particularly in Africa, the report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
There were an estimated 627,000 malaria deaths in 2020, an increase of 12 per cent over 2019. Some 47,000 (68 per cent) of the additional 69,000 deaths were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An estimated 241 million malaria cases were reported in 2020 in 85 malaria-endemic countries, increasing from 227 million in 2019. Most of the increase came from countries in the WHO African Region, the World Malaria Report 2021 said.
The WHO African Region, with an estimated 228 million malaria cases in 2020, accounted for about 95 per cent of cases. Twenty-nine countries accounted for 96 per cent of malaria cases globally.
Six countries — Nigeria (27 per cent); the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12 per cent); Uganda (5%); Mozambique (4%); Angola (3.4%) and Burkina Faso (3.4%) — accounted for about 55 per cent of all cases globally.
Crucial milestones of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 have been missed in 2020. The 2030 targets will not be met without immediate attention.
India accounted for 83 per cent of cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region. Sri Lanka was certified malaria-free in 2016 and remains malaria-free.
Global progress against malaria had levelled off even before the pandemic. Countries with a high burden of the disease were losing ground. Some 24 countries have registered increases in malaria mortality since 2015.
The WHO updated the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030 this year, incorporating lessons learned from the global malaria response during 2016–2020.
The lessons included stalled progress, the high burden to high impact approach and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new strategy called for tailoring malaria responses to local settings, harnessing innovation, strengthening health systems and ensuring robust global malaria funding.
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