By Yashim Katurak
Abuja, – The African Regional Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that malaria-related deaths in the region have dropped from 555,000 to 403,000 between year 2010 and 2017.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja during a press briefing to mark the 2019 “World Malaria Day”.
Moeti, who was represented by Dr Clement Peter, the WHO Nigeria Officer-in-Charge, said that the number of new cases in the region has also reduced from 206 million to 200 million within the seven years.
She however said the region still has the highest burden of the disease globally, even though some countries are making significant effort and showing feasible results in reducing the number of new cases and deaths.
Moeti urged the Federal Government and leaders of African countries to continue to accelerate progress, saying “ as there are still gaps in implementing preventive measures to control the disease’’.
She said there would be acceleration in the pace of progress to achieve a 40 per cent drop in global malaria cases and deaths by 2020 compared to 2015 levels.
“This will propel countries along the road to elimination and contribute to the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals such as improving maternal and child health.
“The number of malaria-related deaths fell from 550,000 to 403,000 in the same period.
“Two countries in the region; Ethiopia and Rwanda, are among 20 countries globally that experienced a significant decrease in malaria cases and deaths by more than 20 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016.
“The statistics for Nigeria shows some progress. In 2010, the burden was 40 per cent but in 2015 the burden has dropped to 27 per cent.
“I am sure that if we do another study for Nigeria for the period between 2015 and 2018, we might see different figures which mean we are making progress with the support of partners.’’
Moeti said that half of the people who were at risk of malaria across sub-Saharan Africa are now sleeping under insecticide-treated nets in 2017 as compared to 30 per cent in 2010.
“This is indicating some success in behaviour change and outreach campaigns, the progress still needs to be sustained.
“In spite of the progress experienced in the region, the 2018 ‘World malaria Report” revealed an increase of 3.4 million cases of malaria in 2017 in the 10 highest burden countries in the region.
“Alarmingly for Africa, 15 countries that contributed 80 per cent of the worldwide malaria burden except India were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“In addition to India, 10 out of the 15 countries accounted for 70 per cent of the global malaria cases and deaths.’’
Moeti called for renewed political commitment among governments in the region, increased investments on malaria prevention and control, allocation of adequate resources, work across sectors and strengthening of cross-border collaboration.
She urged governments in the region to mobilise all necessary internal and external resources and ensure intersectional collaboration to eliminate malaria.
The theme for this year’s commemoration of world malaria day is “Zero Malaria Starts with me”.
Moeti said the theme stresses the need to empower individuals across the world to make a personal commitment to saving more lives and helping communities and economies thrive by eliminating malaria.
By Yashim Katurak