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WHO: Africa recorded 384,000 deaths in 2020

…says Nigeria loses $1.1bn yearly to malaria absenteeism


Despite progress made, no fewer than 384,000 preventable malaria related deaths were recorded in Africa in 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed. Africa’s Regional Director of the WHO, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, made this known in a message to mark the 2021 World Malaria Day with the theme ‘Zero Malaria – Draw the Line Against Malaria.’


Moeti, who said every malaria death was unacceptable, said Nigeria loses $1.1 billion to malaria every year, as a result of absenteeism and productivity losses. According to her, there was a need to move from the perception of malaria as a health problem, to understanding that poses a threat to socio-economic development and this, requires a multi-sectoral response to ensure African societies, economies and individuals, prosper.


She said: “Every year that we let malaria spread, health and development suffers. Malaria is responsible for an average annual reduction of 1.3% in Africa’s economic growth. “Malaria-related absenteeism and productivity losses cost Nigeria, for example, an estimated US$1.1 billion every year.


In 2003, malaria cost Uganda an estimated gross domestic product equivalent to US$11 million. In Kenya, approximately 170 million working days and 11% of primary school days are lost to malaria each year.


“To change this situation, more needs to be done to help at-risk populations. In 2019, one in three at-risk households did not have an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) and 48% of children under-five did not sleep under an ITN.


Among children who sought care for a fever in a health facility, 31% did not get tested for malaria, contrary to the WHO recommendation of testing every fever case in endemic areas.


“Two out of three pregnant women did not receive three or more doses of intermittent preventive treatment. Without this protection, there were 11.6 million malaria cases among pregnant women and 822,000 infants with low birth weight reported across 33 countries.”


Moeti, who drew attention to new challenges such as increasing vector insecticide resistance in the African region, said it could compromise the effectiveness of interventions like Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and indoor-residual spraying.


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