Health disruptions linked to the new coronavirus pandemic caused malaria to cause 69,000 more deaths in 2020 compared to the previous year. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on Monday (6), the worst scenario was avoided.
In total, more than 627,000 people around the world – most of them babies in the poorest parts of Africa – were killed by malaria last year, compared with 558,000 in 2019, the WHO said in its annual report on malaria.
The number surpasses the 224,000 people who have died from coronaviruses in Africa since the beginning of the pandemic.
About two-thirds of the additional malaria deaths in 2020 were due to coronavirus restrictions that halted malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, WHO said.
But efforts to maintain health services, despite the challenges, meant that sub-Saharan Africa did not see the doubling of malaria deaths by 2020, which WHO had warned was a possibility.
Instead, the number of deaths in the region increased by 12% compared to 2019, according to WHO data.
“Thanks to urgent and strenuous efforts, we can say that the world has managed to avoid the worst-case scenario of malaria deaths,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO global malaria program.
Experts hope the fight against malaria can gain considerable ground after the WHO recommendation in October that RTS, S – or Mosquirix – a vaccine developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline should be widely administered to children in Africa.
“With more funding, access to life-saving tools and robust innovation in new tools to stay ahead of the evolving mosquito and parasite, we can accelerate transformative action and end malaria in a generation,” said Abdourahmane Diallo, Chief Executive RBM End Malaria Partnership Advocacy Group.
“We are now at a critical juncture and I urge global leaders to make renewed commitment and investment,” he said in a statement.
Reference: CNN Brasil