Fears that the coronavirus pandemic would wreck efforts to control malaria have not panned out, but disruptions will nonetheless mean more deaths, the World Health Organization said Friday.
WHO predicted in April that malaria in sub-Saharan Africa could double this year alone if access to malaria preventions was severely curtailed. It issued guidance to help countries in maintaining core malaria services during this time. Many countries have gone to great lengths to maintain these essential services, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“I’m glad to say that, so far, our worst fears have not been realized,” Tedros told a forum held with the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership to End Malaria.
But the pandemic has disrupted health systems and services, Tedros said. A recent WHO survey of 105 countries showed that 46% of countries reported disruptions in malaria treatment and diagnosis.
“Malaria has been with us for millennia. Covid-19 has only been with us for eight months. But many of the elements of our response to both diseases are the same,” Tedros said. “We must harness the power of science and technology. We must focus on prevention. We must protect the most vulnerable. We must come together in solidarity. And we must never accept the status-quo. We must do it through mobilization.”
Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said countries have struggled to obtain malaria treatments and diagnostics. “Today more than ever, we must sustain malaria investment, investments that have proved crucial in responding to Covid-19,” Diallo said. “I’m sure we’ll get back on track to achieve the ambitious malaria elimination goals we have set.”