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Combating The Silent Threat: Effective Strategies For World Malaria Day In Africa

Apr 25, 2024 10:00AM ● By Gift Joe

Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah

Every year on April 25th, the World Health Organization (WHO) marks World Malaria Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about one of the world's oldest and deadliest diseases. This year's theme, “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement” is a reminder of the ongoing battle to control and eradicate this preventable disease.

Transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, malaria poses a silent threat, especially in Africa where the most vulnerable populations are affected. It remains a significant public health challenge across the continent, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives every year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the African region accounted for approximately 94% of all malaria cases and deaths globally in 2019. Children under the age of five and pregnant women are particularly at risk, with malaria contributing to high rates of morbidity and mortality in these groups. A child dies nearly every minute from malaria in Africa where it is estimated that 9 out of 10 malaria deaths occur. According to available data, there were 249 million malaria cases globally which led to 608,000 deaths in total in 2022. Of these deaths, 76 percent were children under 5 years of age.

Though progress has been made in recent years, the fight against this deadly disease is far from over. More awareness about the causes, symptoms, and prevention of malaria needs to be created as this will enable people to take the appropriate precautions. World Malaria Day should not be only about raising awareness; but also about pushing for effective strategies necessary for reducing transmission, preventing illness, controlling the disease, and eradicating it. Here are some key approaches to combating this silent threat:


Prevention is better than cure. There are several ways to prevent and control malaria effectively. They include:

Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITNs): The use of mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticides plays a crucial role in preventing malaria transmission. This is a simple and effective way of keeping the mosquitoes away. Encouraging individuals, particularly in rural areas with limited healthcare infrastructure, to sleep under ITNs, can reduce their risk of contracting malaria significantly.

Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS): This involves coating the walls and other surfaces of a house with a residual insecticide. The insecticide will kill mosquitoes and other insects that come in contact with these surfaces. Though it does not directly prevent people from being bitten by mosquitoes, it usually kills mosquitoes if they come to rest on the sprayed surface. This helps prevent transmission of infection to other persons.

Repellents: There are several over-the-counter mosquito repellent creams and bands that help to keep you safeguarded from mosquito bites. Insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin offer additional protection.

Vaccines: The RTS, S/AS01 vaccine and the PfSPZ vaccine products are two of the most promising malaria vaccine candidates to date. The RTS, S vaccine, the first and only licensed malaria vaccine, offers some protection for young children. To prevent malaria, continued research and development of more effective vaccines are crucial.

Image: A community learning about mosquito nets. SallyforthwitCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Strengthening Healthcare Systems

Strengthening healthcare systems capable of delivering comprehensive malaria prevention and treatment services is essential in the fight against malaria across Africa. This can be achieved in the following ways:

Access to testing and treatment: Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for tackling malaria effectively and preventing severe illness and death. Ensuring availability and access to Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), especially in remote and underserved areas allows for timely detection, enabling prompt treatment.

Effective antimalarial drugs: Ensuring access to effective antimalarial drugs and proper healthcare infrastructure to administer them is important.

Trained health professionals: Training healthcare professionals in proper malaria diagnosis and treatment protocols is vital in tackling the silent threat. These health workers also play a vital role in delivering malaria education, distributing prevention tools, and providing support to individuals and families affected by the disease.

Combating drug resistance: Significant progress has been made over the years in controlling malaria. However, the malaria parasite continues to evolve in ways that diminish the efficacy of current medicines. Therefore, it is important to keep monitoring and tackling the emergence of drug-resistant malaria strains.

Image: Local healthcare professionals treating malaria in Angola. USAID Africa Bureau, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Community Engagement

This has played a critical role in successful disease control and elimination campaigns in many countries. As much as there are control measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets, diagnostics, and artemisinin-based medicines in place, what is most important is creating awareness in the communities. If the communities are not educated on the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures, they will continue to live in ignorance. Community education and awareness campaigns play a vital role in behavior change. 

Also, supporting community-led efforts for mosquito control, bed net distribution, and behavior change can play a big role in preventing malaria transmission.

Innovation and Technology

Investing in research and innovation is essential for developing new tools, technologies, and strategies to combat malaria. Technological advancements hold the promise of further reducing the burden of malaria in Africa and beyond, offering promising solutions in the fight against this silent killer. They include:

New insecticides: The development of new, long-lasting insecticides to combat mosquito resistance is essential.

Drone technology: This offers promising solutions for insecticide spraying in hard-to-reach areas.

Digital tools: This can be used for improved case management, surveillance, and data analysis. The adoption and deployment of innovative digital tools help in early detection, improved diagnosis, and potentially better treatment of malaria parasites.

Combating malaria requires the joint effort of everyone, from governments and NGOs to healthcare professionals and communities. By implementing these strategies, we can turn the tide against malaria in Africa, creating a healthier future for generations to come.

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