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The Effect of Malaria on Africa

Apr 21, 2022 12:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian
illustration of black woman in labcoat carrying syringe, and mosquitos flying around

Malaria is usually found in impoverished tropical and subtropical regions of the globe. Malaria is a primary cause of sickness and death in many of the nations where it exists. Young children, who have not yet gained immunity to malaria, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been reduced by pregnancy, are the most susceptible populations in places with high transmission. Malaria has tremendous economic repercussions for people, families, communities, and countries. So, what exactly is malaria and how has it affected the African continent? Let us investigate.


Figure 1 - Malaria perpetrator. Source - Google

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious illness that affects people and is caused by Plasmodium protozoan parasites. Almost all human infections are caused by four species, but P falciparum causes the bulk of infections in Africa and is responsible for the most severe forms of the illness, with the greatest fatality rate. When an infected mosquito bites a human, the parasite from its saliva enters the person's bloodstream. This is how many distinct mosquito species spread malaria. Each malaria-transmitting mosquito species has a unique life cycle, preferred water environment, and favored feeding habits. The African species that transmit malaria have a long lifetime and a strong human-biting behavior, which is one of the primary reasons for the high occurrence of malaria in Africa. Malaria continues to have a terrible effect on people's health and livelihoods all across the globe, despite the fact that it is readily preventable and curable.

According to the CDC, an estimated 627,000 individuals died from malaria in 2020, with the majority of them being young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the recent decade, an increase in the number of partners and funding has accelerated malaria control efforts. This expansion of treatments has saved millions of lives worldwide and reduced malaria mortality by 36% from 2010 to 2020, giving rise to expectations and plans for elimination and, eventually, eradication. With its collaborative work in many malaria-endemic nations and areas, the CDC offers technical knowledge to these initiatives. Young children who have not yet gained partial immunity to malaria are the most susceptible populations. Pregnant women, whose immunity is reduced by pregnancy, particularly during the first and second pregnancies, and travelers or migrants from regions with low or no malaria prevalence, who lack immunity.

Figure 2 - Illustration of Malaria. Source - Google

According to the research, Africa has the world's highest malaria load. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 95 percent of malaria cases and 96 percent of fatalities, with children under the age of five accounting for 80 percent of all malaria deaths in Africa. Malaria has far-reaching economic, social, and human effects on the African continent, and immediate action is required to accomplish the objectives set by the WHO's Global Technical Strategy for malaria for 2030. The pace of progress against the illness has halted in several high-burden nations since 2015, and the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate an already grave position in 2020. However, there are grounds to be optimistic. Over the past two decades, the malaria community has achieved remarkable advances in Africa and throughout the world, averting 1.7 billion cases and 10.6 million deaths between 2000 and 2020. Furthermore, throughout the pandemic, malaria-endemic nations, the majority of which are in Africa, avoided the WHO's worst-case scenario of malaria mortality.

 Figure 3 - Vaccination for Malaria Illustration. Source - Google

Policymakers and health experts have applauded the WHO's approval of the world's first malaria vaccine, which might be available in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2022. Following experimental studies in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that followed 800,000 children since 2019, the WHO approved expanded use of GSK's RTS,S malaria vaccine. Although the vaccine was the first to be approved, it is only 30% effective, needs four doses, and fades after a few months. Scientists, on the other hand, believe that its approval will be a watershed moment in attempts to reduce the malaria load in Sub-Saharan Africa. The area is responsible for the vast majority of the world's 400,000 malaria fatalities each year. RTS,S, when paired with seasonal antimalarial medicine, decreased clinical episodes, hospitalization, and mortality by around 70%, according to new research. Malaria vaccine success has resulted from a complex ecosystem of collaboration and novel financing channels combining academics, pharma, international charities, and significant amounts of direct government support.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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