Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaria fight stalls as children die by the thousands



Malaria fight stalls as children die by the thousands

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Ghanese worker prepares the insecticide against mosquitos on May 2 in Adansi Domeabra. cristina aldehuela/afp

Malaria fight stalls as children die by the thousands

(The Washington Post): For years, global public-health officials have been at war with malaria, a disease that kills more than 445,000 people annually, about 70 percent of them children under five years old.

The number of cases and deaths has steadily dropped for a decade and a half. As philanthropist Bill Gates told a global conference in April, half the world is now malaria-free. But the battle shows signs of stalling.

In 2016, the latest year for which data have been published, the number of malaria cases went up to 215 million, from 210 million the year before. The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “We are beginning to see reversals in the gains achieved.”

Africa still accounts for 90 percent of the burden, but Venezuela, once nearly malaria-free, shows that when a nation falls apart, disease can rush in. A WHO official has reported that the incidence of malaria in Venezuela in 2017 jumped 69 percent from the previous year and is five times higher than in 2013.

As Venezuela fell into chaos, its public-health systems collapsed, leaving the country without insecticides, drugs, mosquito nets, diagnostic equipment and surveillance, all key tools in the battle against the disease.

Tools that brought progress are wearing out. The nets, sprays and drugs “aren’t working as well as they used to”. The mosquitoes are increasingly resistant to the insecticide widely used in mosquito nets.

At the same time, in the Mekong River region in Southeast Asia, a commonly used anti-malaria drug has been losing its punch as the parasites become resistant.

So far, this resistance has not spread to Africa, fortunately. But there has been a sharp drop-off of indoor spraying in Africa, and only slightly more than half of all people in sub-Saharan Africa are sleeping under treated nets, the primary prevention method. It is critical in malaria cases to get prompt health care, but still only 1 in 3 children in Africa do so.

The WHO chief said the $2.7 billion committed annually to anti-malaria efforts is less than half of what is needed.

For the first time, a vaccine shows partial protection against malaria in children and has been cleared for pilot introduction in Africa to complement other efforts. Over the longer run, there is hope technology such as the genetic editing tool known as Crispr can be used to modify mosquitoes so they don’t spread the disease.

This seems like an example of the kind of genetic editing that would present a handsome payoff to humankind and be worth the risk if it works.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10