Experts say that malaria-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could more than double this year due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malaria killed more than 400,000 people across Africa in 2018 and is still a leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Niger make up nearly 50 percent of malaria cases worldwide.

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Global campaigns have slowed the global incidence of malaria, due to a “massive rollout” of mosquito nets, anti-malaria drugs, and the use of insecticides.

But as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, and overwhelms global health systems, malaria could resurge with over 750,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa dying from the disease, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018.

COVID-19 has delayed diagnoses, shut down large-scale treatment and testing as well as global prevention programs, and created barriers to people who must travel to seek medical care.

Restrictions on air and sea travel also limit delivery of medications and resources. Many people who are suffering from malaria are also staying away from health facilities out of fear of contracting coronavirus.

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“COVID-19 risks derailing all our efforts and taking us back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Dr. Pedro L. Alonso, the director of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program.

Other diseases may also make a comeback amid the pandemic. About 80 percent of tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria programs worldwide have reported disruptions in services.

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Due to lockdowns across the world, experts predict an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis and 1.4 million deaths from it.

A six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO. According to UN AIDS, one in four people with HIV have reported problems with obtaining treatment which may lead to drug resistance, compromising the effectiveness of medications.

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While the world continues to fight off COVID-19, other infectious diseases mustn’t be ignored.

Read about four things governments could do to continue fighting infectious diseases and how deforestation is connected to these deadly viruses.

Sign this petition to help end AIDS, TB, and malaria by 2030.

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