Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new modelling analysis released by the World Health Organization(WHO) on Thursday.WHO has warned that malaria cases in Africa may double this year compared to 2018, and has urged countries to move fast and distribute malaria prevention and treatment tools at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa.
The analysis considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic in 41 countries, and the resulting increases that may be seen in cases and deaths.
“Under the worst-case scenario, in which all insecticide-treated net (ITN) campaigns are suspended and there is a 75percent reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769 000, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018,” WHO warned in a statement issued in Nairobi.
WHO has warned that this would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen 20 years ago.
According to the World malaria report 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93 percent of all malaria cases and 94 percent of deaths in 2018.
More than two-thirds of deaths were among children under the age of five.
To date, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa has represented only a small proportion of the global total, though cases are increasing every week.
This means that countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimize disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, noted WHO.
WHO is urging that mass vector control campaigns should be accelerated, while “ensuring that they are deployed in ways that protect health workers and communities against potential COVID-19 transmission.”