Malaria: Twice as many deaths

Posted on February 8, 2012

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New research from the University of Washington has found that worldwide malaria deaths may be twice as high as previously estimated. The study, published in The Lancet last week, reported that malaria was the underlying cause of death for 1.24 million people in 2010. [1] This is in contrast to the World Health Organization’s estimate of 655 000 deaths for 2010. [2]

Photo courtesy of ISGlobal.org

Although malaria-associated deaths have been enormously underestimated, the rapid-scale up in malaria control interventions in the last few years has resulted in significant reductions in morbidity and mortality. In November last year, the first results of the Phase 3 Trial of the RTS,A/ASOI malaria vaccine in African children were published in the New England Journal of Medicine [3] and announced at the Malaria Forum in Washington hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The results were described by Bill Gates as a “huge milestone” in the fight against malaria.

However, the present funding crisis poses a serious threat to the advances that have been made. Global Fund’s board has recently cancelled its plans to finance any new programs until at least 2014 as a result of donors abandoning their pledges. In response to this, Gates has donated $US750 million to Global Fund. “These are tough economic times, but that is no excuse for cutting aid to the world’s poorest,” he said at the World Economic Forum last month.

Continuous efforts to combat malaria is imperative if we are to achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Once again, we must continue to advocate for governments and donors to meet (and increase) their global health funding commitments.

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References
1. Murray CJL, Rosenfeld LC, Lim SS, et al. Global malaria mortality between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis. The Lancet. 2012;379(9814):413-431.
2. WHO. World Malaria Report 2011. http://apps.who.int/malaria/world_malaria_report_2011/en/index.html.
3. First Results of Phase 3 Trial of RTS,S/AS01 Malaria Vaccine in African Children. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;365(20):1863-1875.

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