Friday 30th July 2021
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UN demands action to prevent malaria, vaccine setbacks amid pandemic

The fight against malaria and mass vaccinations against other diseases must not be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

Pedro Alonso
Dr Pedro Alonso, Director, Global Malaria Programme of the WHO

Annual malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double to 769,000 this year if the distribution of mosquito nets is suspended and if access to malaria medicines falls, according to modelling by the Geneva-based UN health agency.

African countries south of the Sahara desert account for more than 90 per cent of global malaria cases and deaths. The majority of patients who die are children younger than five.

In this region, the number of people infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is still only a small fraction of the global tally.

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“This means that countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimise disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak,’’ the WHO said in a statement.

The UN agency said countries should follow the examples of Benin, Congo, Sierra Leone and Chad, which launched mosquito net campaigns during the pandemic.

The WHO also warned that preventable diseases could resurge if immunisation is suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“These diseases will come roaring back if we do not vaccinate,’’ WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

According to the WHO, any additional outbreaks pose a risk to health systems that are already strained by COVID-19.

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Before the current pandemic, 86 per cent of the world’s children received shots against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles, up from 20 per cent in 1980.

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