World Malaria Day: 5 things you should know about malaria

Tomorrow we recognise World Malaria Day and the ongoing fight to defeat this disease globally

Here are 5 things we think you should know about malaria.

1. Malaria is one of the oldest diseases known to humanity

DNA from the parasite that transmits malaria has been found in the skeletons of ancient Egyptian mummies. Yet whilst malaria is not a particularly complex disease compared to those like HIV/Aids, it still hasn’t been fully eradicated.

2. Malaria is completely preventable and curable

According to the WHO, since 2000 the number of malaria cases has declined by 47% globally, and by 54% in Africa. However, more than half a million lives are still lost to this disease each year. Problems with recurring drug-resistance to malaria treatment and the accessibility of treatment goes some way to explaining why malaria is still a global health issue.

3. Drug-resistant malaria is a recurring problem

Parasites which spread the disease are becoming resistant to medicines used to treat malaria, making the disease more difficult to treat. Resistance has occurred as a result of several factors. One is that people do not finish their course of treatment but stop when they start to feel better. Another is that poorly trained pharmacists and store owners may allow patients to buy just a portion of a course of drugs as this is all that they can afford, yet this is simply not effective. There is also a prevalence of counterfeit drugs on the market which are completely ineffective against the parasites.

4. Drug-resistant malaria is treatable. But pricey.

New treatments have been developed to treat drug-resistant malaria but they come at a high cost, with an adult dose of the newer drug costing 10 to 20 times more than older anti-malarials. This often makes the cost of treatment unmanageable for poor and marginalised communities.

5. Strengthening health systems helps fight malaria

The strain of the Ebola crisis in West Africa on the fragile health systems there, and the knock-on impact of the crisis on other health services, has demonstrated the importance of building strong national health systems. In the fight against malaria, strengthening health systems could help to improve the surveillance of malaria outbreaks, provide trained staff who can deliver better diagnosis and treatment services, and allow for greater education outreach activities on preventative methods.

At Health Poverty Action we believe that everybody in the world has an equal right to the best chance of good health. This is why we are working with communities to provide better access to quality malaria services, including prevention and treatment.