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Malaria threatens security of millions

Medical technician looking through a microscope

Malaria, a disease spread by mosquito bites, can lead to impoverishment, disability, and death. Beyond the loss of human potential, malaria’s direct costs total more than $12 billion each year and cause substantial economic losses for entire nations. Encouragingly, inexpensive yet simple interventions can dramatically reduce malaria’s impact.

From global efforts to grass-roots mobilization, resources committed to fight malaria have increased greatly in the past decade. Hundreds of millions of life-saving insecticide-treated bed nets and effective antimalarial medicines are now available to people who need them, especially pregnant women and children under 5 years old, who are most vulnerable to malaria.

The impact of this massive scale-up has been a dramatic decline in malaria cases and deaths---in many countries by as much as 50 percent. Globally, WHO estimates that malaria deaths decreased by a third between 2000 and 2010, with most of this reduction in Africa. These achievements are fragile, however, because resources are constrained in the current economy, bed nets wear out, and parasites develop resistance to medicines.
World Malaria Day, April 25th, and its theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria,” remind us that successes of the past decade can be easily reversed.

The U.S. government has a major role in the global malaria partnership. CDC, which began in 1946 as the agency to control malaria in the United States, is a leader in global malaria efforts. The successful President’s Malaria Initiative is jointly implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development and CDC and has greatly contributed to recent decreases in malaria.

CDC has played a key role in developing and improving the tools to prevent and treat malaria: treated bed nets and house-spraying to protect families from mosquitoes, accurate diagnostic tests and high-quality effective drugs, and treatment for pregnant women that protects them and their babies.

What more can we do?

Even as many individuals and companies contribute to organizations that buy and distribute bed nets, our nation is harnessing its technical expertise to develop and evaluate new prevention and control methods. CDC is working to ensure that new medicines, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and mosquito control products are deployed effectively, and is also investigating new ways to collect the strategic information needed to track our progress and ensure we invest wisely.

With increased knowledge, the right tools, and renewed commitment to decrease malaria, we can sustain gains made in past decade and save lives.

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H
Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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