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Rising malaria deaths in conflict zones slows progress

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SLEEPING UNDER INSECTICIDE TREAT NETS RECOMMENDED TO PREVENT MALARIA CREDIT: www.thecable.ng

New studies released this week showed that rapid rise of malaria infections and deaths in northern Nigeria and other African countries experiencing conflict and famine threatens the marginal progress made in eliminating the disease.

However, according to the researches presented yesterday in Senegal at the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan African Malaria Conference, new strategies implemented in places like northern Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan could provide a way forward.

Thousands of scientists from across the African continent and around the world (representing 70 countries) are gathered in Senegal to share the latest research in the fight against malaria and discuss ways to end the epidemic for good.

The recent data by the World Health Organisation (WHO) were presented by researchers at the MIM Conference led by Head of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) called The Mentor Initiative, Richard Allan.

The NGO focuses on fighting malaria in areas experiencing humanitarian crises.

The WHO data showed that although malaria deaths have fallen globally from 655,000 in 2010 to 445,000 in 2016 the disease is still present in 91 countries and at least 80 per cent of infections and deaths are now concentrated in just 18 of them.

According to the WHO data, over this same period, many of these countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and other regions experiencing armed conflict saw infections and deaths surge.

Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, warned that “if we continue with a business as usual approach,” these malaria hot zones could reverse hard-fought progress against the disease.

This year’s meeting falls four months after the release of the WHO 2017 World Malaria Report, which found there is a dire need for new malaria interventions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report found that despite recent advances, overall progress against global malaria control has stalled.

In 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria, about five million cases more than in 2015. Ninety percent of these cases occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

Also, another new study presented at the Conference found that almost one quarter of blood bank supplies in Sub Saharan Africa contains the parasites that cause malaria.

Half of all children receiving blood transfusions need the procedure to address malaria-induced anemia, so these blood transfusions risk exposing them to more malaria-causing parasites.

According to the WHO, 90 percent of all malaria cases are located in the region. In the quest for elimination of malaria, all sources of disease transmission, including the region’s blood banks, need to be addressed.

The first study, “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the risk of transfusion-transmitted malaria from blood donors in sub-Saharan Africa,” conducted by Dr. Selali Fiamanya and colleagues from the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN), gathered results from 24 studies to assess malaria prevalence among 22,508 blood donors.

Pooled prevalence of malaria parasitemia was 23.46 percent, ranging from 6.5 percent to 74.1 percent, including more than 10 studies from Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

Half of all children receiving blood transfusions need the procedure to address malaria-induced anemia, the failure to keep these blood banks safe puts children and their parents at risk.

“Our research is only the first line of inquiry needed to address this risk. Pregnant women and children receive the majority of transfusionsin this region.

The technical challenges of diagnosing and removing the Plasmodium parasites from the blood banks requires further analysis, but we know already that these findings threatens the next generation—our future.”

Also, researchers presented new class of insecticide that beats mosquito resistance and shows promise for use in bednets and indoor spraying.

Malaria control is being threatened by the spread of mosquitoes resistant to pyrethroids, the class of insecticide that is widely used for indoor residual spraying (IRS).

Several studies being presented at the MIM Conference examine the IRS products being used and devise frameworks that will help African malaria control programmes choose the most cost-effective IRS product according to local endemicity, seasonality of transmission, level of resistance, bednet use and alternative malaria control interventions.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine also announced the launch of the online Malaria Atlas Project, an insecticide resistance database.


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