Between 2000 and 2015, malaria mortality rate has fallen by 60% and the number of malaria cases has fallen by 37% globally. As result, 6.2 million lives saved over the last 15 years of which 5.7 million are children under five. Over the last 15 years, the delivery of core malaria interventions has undergone an unprecedented expansion. Since 2000, one billion insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been distributed in Africa. The introduction of rapid diagnostic tests has made it possible to distinguish more quickly between malarial and non malarial fevers – enabling more timely and appropriate treatment. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been highly effective against Plasmodium falciparum, the most prevalent and lethal malaria parasite affecting humans. And as we have reached more communities and people at risk for malaria with these core interventions, many more lives have been saved.
Despite tremendous progress, malaria remains an acute public health problem in many regions. In 2015 alone, there were 214 million new cases of malaria reported, and approximately 438,000 people died of this preventable and treatable disease, 70 per cent of whom are children under five, still die from this preventable disease every year. 90% of malaria deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria. The disease also contributes greatly to anemia among children — a major cause of poor growth and development.
Malaria infection during pregnancy is associated with severe anemia and other illness in the mother and contributes to low birth weight among newborn infants — one of the leading risk factors for infant mortality and sub-optimal growth and development. Malaria has serious economic impacts in Africa, slowing economic growth and development and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. Malaria is truly a disease of poverty — afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas in poorly-constructed dwellings that offer few, if any, barriers against mosquitoes.
The insecticide treated nets provide a physical barrier against mosquitoes; also, because they are impregnated with insecticide, they can reduce the lifespan of a mosquito, decreasing the chance of it transmitting malaria to another person. Thus, ITNs provide personal protection to those sleeping under them, and once a sufficient number of people are using ITNs, they can also provide a community wide protective effect by reducing the number of mosquitoes in a community. It is therefore desirable to achieve high rates of ITN use in a population.