Malaria is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there had been an estimated 438,000 deaths globally due to malaria that year - 340,000 of those were children under the age of 5.

Today is World Malaria Day and our aim is to join in raising awareness of the millions of cases of malaria that go undiagnosed each year and the international effort to prevent and treat the disease.

The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is “End Malaria for Good.” This echoes the World Health Organization’s goal to eradicate malaria completely and is something we support in our work overseas.

What is malaria

Malaria is caused by a number of different parasites and is often transferred to humans via the female mosquito bite. It initially infects liver cells, but, as it moves into the blood stream it can cause anemia, fevers, possible hemorrhaging and multiple-organ failure.

Effects on society 

According to WHO there are 3.2 billion people at risk of malaria – that’s almost half of the world’s population. In India, around 82% of the population lives in malaria-endemic regions and as well as affecting an individuals’ health the disease is also a significant economic burden. The illness can stop people from being able to work and can mean they are left to struggle even more so to feed and house themselves and their families.

Accessing treatment can also be challenging as the majority of malaria cases occur in rural and remote areas where health services are sporadic and of poor quality.

Eradicating malaria

As part of the Millennium Development Goals, efforts have been made to control mosquito populations and protect people from the bites. This has reduced transmission and, along with a greater supply of antimalarial drugs, mortality has been reduced.

Since 2000, there have been 1.2 billion fewer cases of malaria and 6.2 million fewer deaths caused by malaria so we are making some progress.

However, there is still work to be done in the fight to eradicate malaria. The UN has included some targets into the new Sustainable Development Goals for 2016-2030 aiming to:

  • Reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90% compared to 2015
  • Eliminate malaria from at least another 35 countries
  • Prevent re-establishment of malaria in all countries that are malaria free

What we do

Our project in Adilabad district in India works towards these goals. We are providing mobile health services to provide care to those in more remote and rural areas as well as running health education sessions so that families can learn how to prevent malaria and recognise the symptoms earlier.  We also help implement preventative measures by promoting the use of long-lasting insecticide bed nets and cleaning mosquito breeding sites.

We also train ashas on how to test for malaria. They have small malaria testing kits and we are able to show them, as well as local village doctors, how to use them to test for the malaria parasite. This ensures that only patients who definitely have malaria receive anti-malarial treatment. This is important in working to prevent the emergence of drug resistant malaria.

In a new project in Odisha, we aim to halve the number of deaths caused by malaria by 2017 in 1,174 villages across three endemic Districts. Through this project, we will be targeting the most vulnerable populations like pregnant women, young children and the elderly.

The area of the map afflicted by malaria has shrunk rapidly however, the eradication of malaria still poses significant challenges. By donating, you can help in the international effort to end malaria for good.

Donate now

This blog was written by Polygeia, a global health think tank giving students the opportunity to engage in research and policy making.