Are Malaria Epidemic in West Africa About to be Blown Out of the Water?

Kissing West Africa goodbye after fewer than 1,000 people die of malaria each day.

That is the frightening assessment being made by researchers working to eliminate malaria globally. They say that if we truly want to end the global threat of malaria then the response is incredibly urgent and immediate.

The challenges facing them are daunting: Malaria is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, claiming as many as half a million lives every year.

But if the Global Fund’s goal is achieved, one of the world’s most deadly and enduring diseases will be one step closer to being a thing of the past.

And every single day, that happens in this West African country.

The Global Fund has committed to fund the work of two West African countries — Guinea and Mali — in helping them eliminate malaria. Guinea could be the first to become malaria-free, in 2022.

Between 2000 and 2015, there was a 78 percent reduction in global malaria deaths. The vast majority of the current efforts are directed at boosting existing public health efforts, and addressing the spread of new strains of the disease. In Africa, the malaria battle is being led by the Global Fund, which has invested $4.6 billion in fighting the disease.

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Only a few diseases survive the test of time without further intervention. Climate change makes each year’s crop of malaria mosquitoes different, and therefore each year’s crop of deadly parasites are different as well.

How can we resolve this potential stalemate? “Mali or Guinea, but especially Guinea,” says Professor Roger Foster, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In Mali, two mosquitoes — Chikungunya and Zika — have wiped out over 35,000 people in just over a year.

Chikungunya also continues to pose an increasing threat. If the disease remains in Africa, then ultimately it could move onto East and Central Africa.

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Malaria kills one million people each year, making it the third leading cause of death worldwide. But in just a few years, scientists say it can be wiped out.

“The last time we had the sort of opportunity we have now, in the early 1960s,” explains Dr. Foster, “we ended the spread of dengue fever by about 10-20 percent each year, and we will need that opportunity now.

While our weather plays a significant role in what malaria mosquitoes do to us, the key to malaria eradication is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.

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