World Malaria Day, celebrated on 25th of April every year, is an international event to highlight the sustained investment and global commitment in preventing the infection and controlling its outbreaks. The day was instituted by the member states of the World Health Organization during the World Health Assembly of 2007.
According to WHO report, 2021 saw 247 million cases of malaria worldwide. COVID-19 had caused a major setback in the efforts to eradicate malarial infection. The global malarial infections have increased for the second consecutive year, although at a slower place than in 2020. As the COVID-19 were removed, the fight against malaria was back on which resulted in lowered malarial deaths compared to 2020.
The theme for this year’s World Malaria Day is “Time to deliver zero malaria: invest, innovate, implement”. With this theme, WHO aims to focus on the third ‘i’ – implement – with special focus on vital importance of reaching out to the marginalized section of the population with the strategies and tools available today.
While the disease is uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is still common in tropical and subtropical countries. There have been around 619,000 malaria deaths in 2021. The number is 9% higher than the pre-pandemic statistics. Almost 95% of malarial infection cases have been from WHO African Region. Young children in Africa are disproportionally at-risk of malaria due to limited access to healthcare.
Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease in humans caused by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite called Plasmodium that multiplies in red blood cells of humans as well as in the mosquito intestine. The severity of infection and the symptoms depends on the species of plasmodium that has caused the illness. There are five species of plasmodium that infect humans and cause illness out of which, Falciparum malaria is potentially life-threatening.
Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells. It usually occurs after a few weeks of being bitten.
World Malaria Day is meant to generate awareness about the virulence of Malaria. It becomes important to put steady efforts as there are many countries where the native population is exposed to the potential infection.
Children (especially under the age of 5) and pregnant women are at heightened risk of getting malaria. Nigeria is the country with the highest number of malaria cases and malaria-related deaths in the world.
Efforts by WHO and the health workers have played a huge role in eliminating malarial infections in quite a few countries. In 2021, the number of countries that reported fewer than 10 indigenous cases increased from 23 in 2020 to 25 in 2021.
Three subregions – Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Greater Mekong – have made significant progress towards regional elimination this century. In 2021, El Salvador and China were certified malaria-free by the WHO; and Belize, Cabo Verde, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Malaysia maintained zero indigenous cases for the third consecutive year.
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