COVID disrupts global fight against malaria, leading to thousands of new deaths: WHO

(ORDO NEWS) — The World Health Organization said on Monday that global action to tackle a long-standing malaria threat has been hit as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted health services in many countries, leading to tens of thousands of deaths worldwide last year, and questions remain about the potential impact this year. year.

The UN Health Agency, in the latest edition of its World Malaria Report, indicated that in 2020 the number of cases will be 241 million, 14 million more than a year earlier, and the number of deaths will be 627,000, an increase of 69,000.

“About two-thirds of these additional deaths (47,000) are attributed to disruptions in the provision of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria during a pandemic,” the WHO said in a statement.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for at least 95 percent of all malaria cases and deaths in 2020, according to the agency.

However, last year’s numbers could have been much worse: WHO said its initial projection was for a possible doubling of malaria deaths in 2020, and many countries were looking to step up their malaria control programs.

“The first message is, in many ways, good news: Through or through the strenuous efforts of malaria-endemic partner countries and others, I think we can say that the world has managed to avert the worst-case scenario of malaria mortality that we saw as likely or possible a year ago, “Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Program, told reporters.

The doomsday scenario did not materialize, “he added.

Over the past 15 years, a dozen countries – including China and El Salvador this year – have joined the ranks of countries classified as malaria-free by WHO.

However, WHO warns that progress in the fight against malaria has declined in recent years, and two dozen countries have seen an increase in deaths from malaria since 2015, the base year for WHO’s malaria control strategy.

According to the WHO, in the 11 most affected countries, the annual number of malaria cases increased by 13 million between 2015 and 2020 to 163 million, while the number of deaths increased by more than 54,000 and reached almost 445,000 per year as of the previous year. year.

Overall, however, the agency notes the progress made in the last generation. The revised methodology for calculating malaria deaths, which has become more accurate, has shown that more than 10 million malaria deaths have been averted since 2000, Alonso said.

But in recent years, “we are not on a trajectory of success,” he added, warning that it’s difficult to say what the impact will be in 2021 and beyond.

“How events will develop in the coming weeks and months, I would not dare to say at the moment,” – said Alonso.

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