Despite a 40% drop in child deaths due to malaria since 2000, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that malaria kills more than 1,200 children a day across the world.
The UN agency released its "Facts about Malaria and Children" ahead of World Malaria Day to show the extensive impact of the disease on children and on pregnant women around the world.
"With a 40% reduction in child deaths from malaria since 2000, this year's World Malaria Day is an important marker in how far we have come," said Mickey Chopra, UNICEF's Associate Director for programmes and chief of health.
"However, the deaths of close to half a million children a year are a sobering reminder that without increased efforts and investments this disease will remain a challenge to us all for a long time to come," Xinhua quoted Chopra as saying.
The latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that, malaria mortality rates have decreased by 47% worldwide and 54% in Africa alone since 2000. Since 2001, it is estimated that more than four million malaria-related deaths have been averted, approximately 97% of which have been children under five.
Some 584,000 people died worldwide in 2013 from malaria, with 90% of these deaths occurring in Africa. In all there were approximately 198 million cases of malaria worldwide.
Although child deaths from malaria dropped significantly since 2000, children under five still represent 78% of global malaria deaths, or 456,000 per year. This means more than 1,200 children die every day from malaria, about 50 children every hour. Between 2001 and 2013, 4.3 million lives were saved by improved access to malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Of these, 92% (3.9 million) were children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.
Protecting pregnant women is crucial in the fight against malaria. Malaria in pregnancy contributes significantly to deaths of mothers and young children, estimated to amount each year to 10,000 women and up to 200,000 infants. Eliminating malaria could save economies $270 billion in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
World Malaria Day is commemorated every year on April 25 and recognises global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria. In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 627,000 deaths, mostly among African children. Asia, Latin America, and to a lesser extent the Middle East and parts of Europe are also affected.