Mapping the End of Malaria
A few years ago, I pulled off a purposeful prank. While I was giving a TED Talk on malariato a room full of influential people, I opened a canister and let loose a small swarm of mosquitoes. “There’s no reason that only poor people should have the experience,” I said. I let the audience squirm in their seats for about half a minute before I let on that the mosquitoes were not infected with malaria. My gimmick worked. A distant problem suddenly got very close to home.
Today, gimmicks are no longer necessary for convincing Americans of the danger of mosquito-borne diseases. The spread of Zika virus in south Florida, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the U.S. has given millions of Americans a direct understanding what it’s like to live with the fear of mosquitoes and the harm they can do, especially to pregnant women and children.
The world must focus serious attention and resources on ending the Zika epidemic. At the same time, we should keep in mind that the overwhelming toll of mosquito-related illness and death comes from malaria. Malaria is the key reason mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world.
Over the years, I have been in hospitals in several African countries when malaria is at its peak. I’ve seen beds out in the corridors and two children to a bed. There’s nothing more painful to see than a child experiencing cerebral malaria, when the parasite is attacking the brain and causing horrible seizures. As a parent, these memories will stay with me for life.
That’s why it gives me great joy to share a new report published today in The New England Journal of Medicine. Rigorous new data show that the malaria death rate in sub-Saharan Africa has declined by a stunning 57% since 2000. With almost 500,000 children still dying of malaria every year, we obviously have a long way to go. But cutting the death rate by more than half is a miracle. It’s one of the greatest success stories in the history of global health.
We’ve known for some time that malaria deaths have been declining steeply. The significance of this new study, which was produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, is that we now have the strongest evidence ever of just how steep the decline has been.
This progress on malaria is no accident. It’s the result of an unprecedented increase in focus and commitment by rich and poor countries alike. The amount of money available to pay for bed nets, effective medications, and malaria research rose by 1,000 percent from 2000 to 2015, fueling massive new prevention and control efforts in countries hit hard by malaria.
In Tanzania, a country that has led the way with a major scale-up, the mortality rate fell more than 80 percent from 2000 to 2015. I remember visiting Tanzania years ago during the rainy season and seeing overflowing hospitals. When I went back years later, there were almost no children in the wards.
Tanzanian health authorities have launched major campaigns to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets and encourage people—especially children—to sleep under them every night. They’ve done widespread spraying of insecticides inside homes and in urban ponds, puddles, and marshes where mosquitoes breed. And they’ve used great medications that contain a drug called artemisinin, which earned its discoverer, Youyou Tu, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine. If you take three days’ worth of these pills, you can get rid of the malaria parasites in your bloodstream, which helps you and also stops you from being the source of malaria spreading back to other people.
And now we have an awesome new tool in our arsenal: precision malaria maps. In the same New England Journal article I mentioned above, the authors report on cutting-edge mapping efforts that have given us an ability to see at a very high degree of granularity (5 km by 5 km) the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. That’s super valuable for short-term interventions, like helping a country determine where to deploy health staff. It’s just as valuable for long-term efforts to reduce the rate of transmission and shrink the malaria map.
When you zoom in with these high-definition maps, you can quickly home in on the hot spots where malaria is hitting hard and yet existing tools like bed nets are not being used widely enough. These maps show that in most countries it’s actually a very small percentage of the country where the disease burden is high and you need to focus your interventions.
And here’s more good news: After years of investment, we now have better diagnostics for detecting infections in people who show no physical symptoms (because people who are infected with malaria parasites but don’t show signs of illness are a big part of the chain of transmission). We have helped private-sector companies develop new, safe insecticides that will allow us to preserve the gains we have made against malaria. We have also helped bring to market simple technologies to protect families from mosquitoes, such as “eave tubes” that kill mosquitoes trying to enter homes and new traps which exploit mosquitoes’ attraction to sugar to kill them outdoors...
Questions 1-10: Write no more than three words AND/OR a number for each question.
1. According to the author, the rich-poor gap makes malaria a ____________________
2. American people are particular concerned about the negative impacts that ____________________ can have on pregnant women and children.
3. The ____________________ of children is believed to be hit because of cerebral malaria.
4. The author refers to the success of sub-Saharan Africa in reducing the rate of fatality caused by malaria as a progress in ____________________
5. A growth in ____________________ from developing and developed economies results in progress in the global fight against malaria.
6. The lack of ____________________ in Tanzania was a piece of evidence for the improvement in dealing with malaria in many countries.
7. One of the methods to put an end to malaria in Tanzania is the use of ____________________ nationwide.
8. One type of short-term intervention against malaria is to provide people with ____________________
9. Identifying people with malaria but no medical signs of this health problem has been easier thanks to ____________________
10. Non-complicated innovations and developments have been introduced in ____________________ to prevent households from being affected by dangers of mosquitoes.
Please find the answers here.
How many correct answers did you get? Please share your answer by leaving a comment.
Watch this video, produced by Vox, to learn more about the global fight against malaria.