Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
It is preventable and curable.
In 2021, there were an estimated 247 million cases of malaria worldwide.
The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 619 000 in 2021.
The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2021, the region was home to 95% of malaria cases and 96% of malaria deaths. Children under 5 accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths in the Region.
Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. There are 5 parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat. P. falciparum is the deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent on the African continent. P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
The first symptoms – fever, headache and chills – usually appear 10–15 days after the infective mosquito bite and may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria. Left untreated, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe illness and death within a period of 24 hours.
In 2021, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Some population groups are at considerably higher risk of contracting malaria and developing severe disease: infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as people with low immunity moving to areas with intense malaria transmission such as migrant workers, mobile populations and travellers.
According to the latest World malaria report, there were 247 million cases of malaria in 2021 compared to 245 million cases in 2020. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 619 000 in 2021 compared to 625 000 in 2020.
Over the 2 peak years of the pandemic (2020–2021), COVID-related disruptions led to about 13 million more malaria cases and 63 000 more malaria deaths.
The WHO African Region continues to carry a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2021 the Region was home to about 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of deaths. Children under 5 years of age accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths in the Region.
Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.3%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.6%), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1%) and Niger (3.9%).
Over the last 2 decades, expanded access to WHO-recommended malaria prevention tools and strategies – including effective vector control and the use of preventive antimalarial drugs – has had a major impact in reducing the global burden of this disease.
Vector control is a vital component of malaria control and elimination strategies as it is highly effective in preventing infection and reducing disease transmission. The 2 core interventions are insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS).
Progress in global malaria control is threatened by emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes. As described in the latest World malaria report, other threats to ITNs include insufficient access, loss of nets due to the stresses of day-to-day life outpacing replacement, and changing behaviour of mosquitoes, which appear to be biting early before people go to bed and resting outdoors, thereby evading exposure to insecticides.
Preventive chemotherapy is the use of medicines, either alone or in combination, to prevent malaria infections and their consequences. It requires giving a full treatment course of an antimalarial medicine to vulnerable populations (generally infants, children under 5 years of age and pregnant women) at designated time points during the period of greatest malarial risk, regardless of whether the recipients are infected with malaria.
Preventive chemotherapy includes perennial malaria chemoprevention (PMC), seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp) and school-aged children (IPTsc), post-discharge malaria chemoprevention (PDMC) and mass drug administration (MDA).
These safe and cost-effective strategies are intended to complement ongoing malaria control activities, including vector control measures, prompt diagnosis of suspected malaria, and treatment of confirmed cases with antimalarial medicines.
Since October 2021, WHO also recommends broad use of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine among children living in regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
The vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce malaria, and deadly severe malaria, among young children.
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