Malaria caused the death of 619,000 people in 2021, 0.96% less than in the previous year, but 8.23% more than in 2019, the last year before the start of the covid-19 pandemic, according to the global report on the disease published today by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, 247 million cases of malaria (also known as malaria) were registered worldwide, which represents an increase of 0.8% compared to the same figure last year and an increase of 6.07% if compared with the infections reported in 2019.
According to the head of the strategic information unit for the response of the WHO global program against malaria, Abdisalan Noor, if these trends continue, the world would not reach the goal of reducing the incidence and mortality rates of malaria by 90%. malaria in the year 2030.
The effects of the pandemic on the distribution of prevention tools and the total or partial interruptions in the provision of health services caused “an increased burden of malaria in many countries,” according to Noor.
These alterations could have led to 63,000 deaths and 13 million additional cases of malaria between 2020 and 2021.
By region, Africa continues to be the main focus of malaria, with more than 96% of deaths registered globally and more than 95% of cases accounted for, according to the WHO report.
Almost 80% of deaths in Africa were among children under five years of age.
Four countries on the African continent accounted for almost half of the world’s malaria cases: Nigeria (26.6%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.3%), Uganda (5.1%) and Mozambique (4, 1 %).
DEATHS FALL 18.33% IN AMERICA
In 2021, 334 people died from malaria in the Americas, a drop of 18.33% compared to the same figure in 2020.
For its part, 600,000 new cases of malaria were registered on the continent, 8.11% less than in the previous year.
Malaria cases recorded in the American continent accounted for only 0.2% of global infections.
Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia topped the list of countries with the highest number of infections, although cases fell significantly in all three places.
In Venezuela, 223,000 cases of malaria were reported in 2021, a figure that contrasts with that of two years ago, before the pandemic, when annual malaria cases in the Caribbean country were 467,000, double that of 2021.
However, the WHO warned of the increase in malaria in Honduras and Panama, especially after the outbreak of covid-19.
In Honduras, 2,290 cases were registered, five times more than in 2019; while in Panama 4,585 infections were recorded, twice as many as two years ago.
On the other hand, El Salvador was the only American country that received certification as a malaria-free country in 2021, after four consecutive years without registering any autochthonous cases.
Belize is also about to reach this goal, which in 2021 chained its third year in a row without indigenous infections.
Deaths from malaria throughout the Americas -including the US and Canada- have fallen by more than 64% since the beginning of the century and the number of annual cases has gone from one and a half million in the year 2000 to 600,000 today, a 60 % less.
MOSQUITO NETS AND TESTS LOSE EFFECTIVENESS
Despite this global decline, the WHO report warns of the loss of effectiveness of some malaria control tools, such as insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets or diagnostic tests for the disease.
According to Noor, the physical resistance of these prevention networks has diminished since their widespread distribution began in 2004.
“Other factors that affect its effectiveness are inappropriate use and behavioral change of mosquitoes, which seem to bite early, before people go to bed, and rest outside homes,” added Noor.
To try to preserve the effectiveness of the mosquito nets, the WHO recommended changing the combination of insecticides that are applied to the nets and assured that the organization will monitor their physical durability.
Regarding diagnostic tests, the various mutations of infectious parasites have caused the loss of sensitivity of these tests.