Things We Must Know About Malaria

Malaria - a preventableand treatable disease that remains, in many regions of the world as a major public health problem.

“Every two minutes, a child diesof malaria,” said Stefan Swartling Peterson, UNICEF Chief of Health.Currently 91 countries experience on going malaria transmission.Almost half the world’s population -about 3.2 billion people - are at riskof malaria. In 2016 alone, 216 million new cases of malaria were reported,and approximately 445,000 people died of the disease - most of them children.

• Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.

• There are five parasite species that cause malaria in humans, and two of these species - P.falciparum and P. vivax- pose the greatest threat.

• The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.In 2016, the region was home to 90 percent of malaria cases and 91 percent of malaria deaths.

• Total funding for malaria control and elimination reached an estimated USD2.7 billion in 2016. Contributions from governments of endemic countries amounted to USD800 million,representing 31 percent of funding.

Progress on global malaria control is slipping.The global community was alerted in November 2017 that malaria cases are on the increase. Two United Nation’s agencies, UNICEF and WHO are working closely with other partners to achieve a world free of malaria, ensuring that those most vulnerable to malaria receive the preventive and curative interventions they need to stay healthy.

Sierra Leone is one of seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa where more than aquarter of the population is infected with malaria at any one time-WHO.

“Worse yet, after years of progress the most recent year-on-year trend is pointing in the wrong direction.Renewed political commitment and funding is a must if we are going to beat malaria.Far too many children’s lives are at stake,” said Peterson.


  • Among all communicable diseases, malaria is the third largest killer of children between the ages of one month and five years, following pneumonia and diarrhea.
  • Nearly 300,000 children under the age of five die of malaria in 2016,equivalent to nearly 800 young lives lost each day.
  • Between 2000 and 2015, the mortality rate for malaria fell by 60 percent and the number of malaria cases dropped by 37 percent globally. During those 15 years,6.2 million deaths were averted,including the deaths of 5.9 million children under five years.
  • In 2016, 91 countries reported a combined total of 216 million malaria cases - five million more than in 2015. Rwanda and Nigeria together saw an increase of over 1.5 million cases, while Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)recorded an additional 500,000 cases in 2015-2016.
  • An estimated 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 407,000 deaths in 2016.
  • Malaria preys upon the vulnerable: children under five years of age, the poorest and most marginalized,pregnant women and their unborn children. Malaria inpregnancy contributes significantly to deaths of mothers and young children, with an estimated tally of at least 10,000 women and 200,000 infants under one year old.
  • Four out of five malaria deaths occur in one of 15 countries: Nigeria, the DRC, India,Mozambique, Ghana, Angola,Uganda, Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya,Tanzania, Cameroon, Niger, Guineaand Chad. More than one in three malaria deaths occur in two countries: Nigeria and the DRC.UNICEF has a country office in all of these countries.
  • Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN)is the most common and most effective way to prevent malaria infection. In 2016, an estimated 54 percent of people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa slept under an ITN compared to 30 percent in 2010. However, the rate of increase in ITN coverage has slowed since 2014.Less than half of house holds in sub-Saharan Africa have enough nets for all occupants.
  • In the last 10 years, UNICEF has procured and distribute nearly 268 million ITN in more than 30 countries worldwide.
  • Countries that have achieved at least three consecutive years with no local cases of malaria are eligible to apply for certification of malaria elimination. Since 2010,seven countries have been certified malaria-free. They are Morocco(2010), Turkmenistan (2010), Armenia(2011), Maldives (2015), Sri Lanka(2016), Kyrgyzstan (2016) and United Arab Emirates (2007).

References: WHO, Malaria Factsheet, updated April 2018 Achieving the Malaria MDG Target World Malaria Report 2017

#Malaria is preventable and treatable yet the disease continues to claim nearly half a million lives a year.