Deaths from malaria could double across sub-Saharan Africa this year if work to prevent the disease is disrupted by Covid-19, the World Health Organization has warned.
The UN’s global health agency said that if countries failed to maintain delivery of insecticide-treated nets and access to antimalarial medicines, up to 769,000 people could die of malaria this year. That figure, which would be more than double the number of deaths in 2018, would mark a return to mortality levels last seen 20 years ago.
While Covid-19 is a major health threat, it’s critical to maintain malaria prevention and treatment programmes,” said the WHO’s Africa director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti. “The new modeling shows deaths could exceed 700,000 this year alone. We haven’t seen mortality levels like that in 20 years. We must not turn back the clock.”
We must do all we can to ensure malaria prevention doesn’t get disrupted, or the knock-on effects will be grave
James Whiting, Malaria No More
In 2018, 94% of global deaths from malaria occured in sub-Saharan Africa.
The WHO said it was crucial for programmes to continue focusing on preventative treatment for pregnant women and children.
The organisation has previously warned that Covid-19 could have secondary impacts if restrictions imposed to stop its spread led to other diseases killing more people. It has called on countries to accelerate anti-malaria campaigns while coronavirus cases across Africa remain relatively low.