The Malaria Phenomenon: Part III

July 27th, 2012
by George S. Crimmin

[private] In case you missed the first two parts of this series, here is a brief recap. A study published in February in the British medical journal Lancet suggested 1.2 million people may have died from malaria in 2010 – nearly double the 655,000 deaths from the disease previously reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). These figures are absolutely staggering. Between 1992 and 2005, I contracted malaria at least a dozen times. Not until recently have I started to enjoy some success in my personal battle with malaria.

WHO and the United Nations have targeted malaria for eradication worldwide by 2015. There appears to be a strong scientific consensus that since 2004, malaria deaths worldwide have been trending downward. However, Richard Cibulskis, a WHO malaria expert, said that although malaria deaths have been dropping, the global financial crisis could jeopardize that success.

“If we take our foot off the accelerator,” Cibulskis said, “malaria could come roaring back.”

The worldwide cost of the battle against malaria is estimated at about $12 billion a year. Last year, the global fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria – which pays for about two-thirds of the world’s malaria programs -announced it had run out of money for future grants.

Stephen Lim and his colleagues at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projected annual malaria deaths wouldn’t fall below 100,000 until after 2020. That would imply the UN goal of reducing malaria deaths to near zero by 2015 may be impossible, certainly tricky at best.

“Based on what we are seeing, there may be a need to rethink the timeline for malaria elimination,” said Lim. “Adding a few more decades might be necessary.”

Malaria has been around for centuries and has probably claimed more lives than any other disease. Nonetheless, until recently, it flew largely below the radar; but no longer. WHO has targeted it for elimination, and there has been some success in reducing malaria deaths since 2004.

But malaria remains a force to be reckoned with, and it would appear it will be around for some time to come.

The 16th Century French writer and physician Francois Rabelais wrote: “Time ripens all things; with time all things are revealed. Time is the father of truth.”

In the meantime, the worldwide malaria phenomenon remains just that – a phenomenon. [/private]

Stay tuned.

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