The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that gaps in access to life-saving tools are undermining efforts to curb malaria, as deaths from the disease will far exceed those killed by Covid-19 in sub-Saharan Africa.

In its latest World Malaria Report’, the WHO says progress against malaria continues to plateau. In some African states, the fight against the mosquito-borne disease has been set back due to gaps in access to life-saving tools, with disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic only aggravating the situation.

Last year, more than 409,000 people were killed by malaria globally, and most of them were children in the impoverished parts of Africa.

The toll may be higher this year. “Our estimates are that depending on the level of service disruption … there could be an excess of malaria deaths of somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, most of them in young children,” said Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s malaria program.

It’s very likely that excess malaria mortality is larger than the direct Covid mortality.

Even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a considerable loss of life, the WHO said. A 10 percent disruption in access to effective antimalarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19 000 additional deaths, while disruptions of 25 and 50 percent could result in an additional 46,000 and 100,000 deaths respectively.

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Despite recent achievements, progress in fighting the disease in the region has stalled, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, warned.

Covid-19 threatens to further derail our efforts to overcome malaria.

The official called on international partners and countries to do more to ensure that the resources are there to expand malaria programs, even despite the “devastating impact” Covid-19 has had on African economies.

Since 2000, the WHO has reported that 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million deaths have been averted globally.

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