Overview: Malaria

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04 0550 Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Approximately 88% of all malaria cases and 90% of all malaria deaths in 2015 occured in the African Region. High-risk groups include children, pregnant women, people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, mobile populations and travellers.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache and vomiting. They usually appear between 10 to 15 days after the mosquito bite. If left untreated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Malaria can cause the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and can cause the spleen to rupture. Severe forms of malaria can also cause life-threatening low blood sugar. Cerebral malaria is a severe complication that causes swelling of the brain and can result in coma or death.

Pregnant women are at the highest risk of malaria complications. Malaria can cause spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, stillbirth and severe maternal anaemia. It is also responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies.

Malaria continues to have a severe socioeconomic impact on our populations. It is one of the causes of household poverty because it results in absenteeism from the daily activities of productive living and income generation. Malaria also continues to prevent many school children from attending school due to illness, diminishing their capacity to realise their full potential.

Malaria is preventable and curable if diagnosed early and prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies used. Several medications are available for chemoprevention but these medicines are not 100% protective and must be combined with personal protective measures such as:

  • Using long lasting insecticidal bed nets (LLINs);
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers;
  • Applying insect repellent on any exposed skin, especially when going out at night when mosquitos are most active;
  • Using indoor residual spraying (IRS).

Malaria Programme

The objectives of the Malaria Programme in the African Region are to:

  • reduce mortality due to malaria
  • reduce malaria morbidity
  • maintain malaria free areas
  • expand areas where malaria is controlled and
  • reduce the adverse health and socio-economic consequences due to malaria.

The Programme carries out the below:

  • Provides normative guidance and generic tools to member states and strengthen human resource capacity for intensifying Malaria prevention and control efforts towards attainment of global, regional and national goals and targets.
  • To support member states in accessing and managing additional resources (including anti-malarials, Long Lasting Insecticide-Treated Nets, diagnostics and other commodities) from global, regional and national partnerships for malaria prevention and control.
  • To provide technical support to countries for accelerating and scaling up cost-effective interventions such as Long Lasting Insecticide-Treated Nets, Indoor Residual Spraying, Malaria In Pregnancy/Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnancy, Case management, Epidemic Preparedness and Response
  • To provide technical support to member states for strengthening procurement & supply management systems and laboratory services and networks.
  • To support member states to strengthen surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems for malaria prevention and control
  • To strengthen capacity for the conduct of operational research for evidence-based decision making.