Study shows malaria deaths declining

Although malaria is killing more people worldwide than previously thought, the number of deaths is falling rapidly as efforts to combat the disease have ramped up, a new research has revealed.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, USA, concluded in its latest research that in 1985, malaria deaths grew every year before peaking in 2004 at 1.8 million deaths worldwide. Since then, the number of deaths has fallen annually between 2007 and 2010, the decline in deaths has been more than seven per cent each year.

A release issued by IHME and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said the biggest drivers of the decline in malaria deaths had been the scale up of insecticide-treated bed nets and Artemisinin-Combination Treatments (ACTs).

Researchers said this has been accomplished through the advent of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria & Tuberculosis in 2001 and the creation of organisations focused on fighting malaria, such as the World Health Organisation’s “Roll Back Malaria”, “Malaria No More” and “Nothing But Nets”.

The study found out that more than 1.2 million people died from malaria worldwide in 2010, twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease whilst more than 78,000 children aged five to 14, and more than 445,000 people aged 15 and older died from malaria in 2010, meaning that 42 per cent of all malaria deaths were in people aged five and older.

The new findings are being published currently in “The Lancet” in Global Malaria Mortality between 1980 and 2010: A Systematic Analysis. The work is part of an ongoing series being generated by the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010 Study.

Researchers say deaths from malaria had been missed by previous studies because of the assumption that the disease mainly killed children under five years and that while the overall number of malaria deaths was higher than earlier reports, the trend in malaria deaths has followed a similar downward pattern.

It said despite assumptions that mainly young children died from the disease, 42 per cent of deaths occurred in older children and adults.

Dr Christopher Murray, IHME Director and the study’s lead author, in the release, said, “What we have found in hospital records, death records, surveys and other sources shows that this is just not the case.”

Dr Alan Lopez, Head of School of Population Health at University of Queensland, and one of the study’s co-authors, said there had been a huge increase in both funding and in policy attention given to malaria over the past decade, and it was having a real impact.

“Reliably demonstrating just how big an impact is important to drive further investments in malaria control programmes. This makes it even more critical for us to generate accurate estimates for all deaths, not just in young children and not just in sub-Saharan Africa”, he added.

One of the most important factors in identifying the new malaria estimates was the use of verbal autopsy data.

In a verbal autopsy, researchers interview the relatives of someone who has recently died to identify the cause of death.

Verbal autopsy data were especially important in India, where malaria deaths have been vastly undercounted in both children and adults.

IHME found that more than 37,000 people over the age of 15 in India died from malaria in 2010, and the chances of someone dying from malaria in India have fallen rapidly since 1980.

“Progress in fighting malaria can be seen everywhere. Countries such as Zambia and Tanzania have seen malaria deaths fall by more than 30 per cent between 2004 and 2010. In Bangladesh, malaria deaths declined 39 per cent in that period, and in Vietnam, they declined 72 per cent.”

The progress being seen in Africa is especially significant, given that malaria deaths on the continent accounted for a quarter of all deaths in children under five in 2010.

But the researchers warn that those gains could be reversed if global economic troubles continue to stifle funding efforts.

The announcement by the Global Fund in November that it would cancel its next round of funding casts a cloud over the future of malaria programmes, the researchers say.

“If the Global Fund is weakened, the world could lose 40 per cent of all the funding dedicated to fighting malaria, that kind of loss of funding poses a definite threat to the health of people in countries with a high malaria burden, which in many cases are some of the poorest countries in the world.

“We need to think of ways to fill funding deficits in order to insure continued progress on malaria mortality,” Stephen Lim, Associate Professor of Global Health at IHME and a co-author on the study said.

Source: GNA

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.