Monday, 27 December 2010

Malaria: The good news

The WHO's latest report on malaria was released recently. Clear progress has been made across the board - the number of deaths is reported down, confirmed cases of malaria are fewer, two countries (Morocco and Turkmenistan have been declared malaria-free and the proportion of cases confirmed with diagnostic tests has increased, although it is still much lower than ideal. Best of all, it is estimated that by the end of 2010, 90% of the 700 million at risk in Africa will be covered by nets or protected by spraying. This is huge. Malaria is not a lifestyle disease. It is not something that is easily avoided without the proper equipment. It also tends to affect the poorest people in the poorest countries. Losing labour hours and days is particularly difficult for these people. So, the kind of control that lets them take action to prevent malaria - by choosing to let their children sleep under nets, for example, is a major step forward for them.

There are, of course, still major challenges, and the gains that have been made are fragile. The proportion of cases confirmed with diagnostic tests must be increased and treatment must be made more widely available. Some countries have also seen an unexpected resurgence in malaria. On the whole, however, it is great to see a disease that affects so many being systematically addressed in a way that seems to be making a real difference.

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