Since 2000, a few simple solutions have saved approximately 663 million people from contracting malaria, according to an analysis published Sept. 16 in the journal Nature.
Researchers report that insecticide-treated bed nets, insecticides sprayed on indoor surfaces, and prompt treatment with combination drug therapy collectively helped reduce the spread of malaria throughout a large swath of sub-Saharan Africa.
But the massive reduction in cases over the last 15 years, as reported in Nature, has prevented 6.2 million deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.
Insecticide-treated bed nets resulted in the largest reduction, accounting for 68% of the cases prevented, according to the Nature study.
Spraying insecticides and quickly administering what’s called artemisinin-based combination therapy to treat malaria accounted for 22% and 10% of cases reduced, respectively. The authors noted, however, that these numbers don’t reflect the effectiveness of one method over another, but rather how widespread their use was.
Bed nets, for example, are widely considered a cheap and effective intervention; approximately 900 million such nets were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa between 2004 and 2014.
The overall drop in cases — from 2000 (on the left) to 2015 (on the right) — is staggering:
The reduction can be partially attributed to the efforts of Roll Back Malaria, a partnership of over 500 organisations including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and the World Bank. For example, the partnership has conducted 70 campaigns distributing free treated bed nets to all households in areas with malaria since 2000, according to a WHO/UNICEF report.
Today, approximately 60% of all children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa, where the most malaria cases and deaths occur, sleep under insecticide-treated nets.
But there’s still more work to do.
That encouraging stat also means that many, many children still don’t sleep under a bed net or in a house treated with insecticide, according to the WHO. And the parasite that causes malaria is gaining resistance to some of the best drugs used to treat the disease, including artemisinin.
The Roll Back Malaria partnership has a goal to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90 per cent in the next 15 years. To accomplish this, the organisation estimates global funding for combating the disease will have to increase from the $US2.7 billion that’s spent today to $US8.7 billion in 2030.
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