The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the progress in the malaria program risks being reversed by the Ebola outbreak. It also warned of major gaps in access to mosquito nets and anti-malaria treatments, as well as the worrying emergence of resistance to the most commonly used insecticides.
The Ebola outbreak has halted malaria programs in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia putting huge strain on health services. Previously health workers were using simple tests to diagnose malaria on the spot, to better target treatments which have now been suspended in Ebola areas. Also, many people with malaria are staying away from clinics, and if they are not getting treated, the mortality will increase. WHO director-general Margaret Chan said, "The collapse of health systems has affected all core malaria interventions and is threatening to reverse recent gains."
AdvertisementBesides the direct consequences, the resurgence of malaria could also harm the fight against Ebola because the two have similar symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. Another issue threatening progress on malaria worldwide is the rise of insecticide resistance, which has been reported in 49 countries since 2010, 39 of which reported resistance to two or more insecticide classes.
Last week, UNICEF launched a campaign to provide anti-malarial drugs to 2.4 million people in Sierra Leone, while global aid agency Doctors Without Borders is conducting a smaller scale effort in Liberia.
In the annual report on malaria it is noted that malaria deaths were down 47 percent between 2000 and 2013 and decreased 53 percent in children under the age of five. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur, the mortality rate decreased by 54 percent. 13 of the 97 malarial countries reported no cases of the disease last year, including Azerbaijan and Sri Lanka, which recorded their first ever zero result.
The death toll from malaria across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia was expected to be about 20,000 a year before the outbreak. Richard Cibulskis, lead author of the malaria report, could not predict a figure now.