Malaria is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases in the world. It is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths every year, with the majority of them being children under the age of five. Malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium and transmitted through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
In this article, we will explore the global hotspots for malaria and the countries that are most severely affected by it. We will also look at the factors that contribute to the prevalence of malaria and the efforts being made to control and eliminate the disease.
What is Malaria?
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
Malaria is characterized by flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. If left untreated, it can lead to severe complications such as anemia, kidney failure, and even death.
Malaria and Anopheles Mosquitoes
Anthropophilic Anopheles mosquitoes feed exclusively on humans, while zoophilic Anopheles mosquitoes feed on animals as well as humans. The most effective way to control malaria is by targeting the mosquito vector.
Distribution of Anopheles mosquito species is strongly influenced by the availability of breeding sites, such as stagnant pools of water, and climatic factors that affect their development and survival.
Global Hotspots for Malaria
Malaria is a disease that is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2019, with the highest burden of the disease in Africa.
The following are the countries that are most severely affected by malaria:
- Nigeria – accounting for 25% of global malaria cases
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Burkina Faso
Malaria in Africa
Africa accounts for more than 90% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide. The high burden of the disease is attributed to several factors, including poverty, weak healthcare systems, and a lack of access to effective prevention and control measures.
In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is a major public health problem, causing an estimated 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. The highest burden of the disease is among children under five years of age, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Malaria in Asia
In Asia, India is the country with the highest burden of malaria, followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. According to the WHO, there were an estimated 6 million cases of malaria in India in 2019, causing 10,700 deaths.
Malaria has historically been a significant health problem in Southeast Asia, with multi-drug-resistant strains of the parasite being identified in the region in the 1950s. The development and spread of drug-resistant strains of the parasite have made the control and elimination of malaria in Asia a major challenge.
Malaria in South America
In South America, the countries most affected by malaria are Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. According to the WHO, there were an estimated 251,000 cases of malaria in the Americas in 2018, with 69% of them being in the Amazon basin.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of malaria in some parts of South America, largely due to the spread of drug-resistant strains of the parasite, as well as environmental and socio-economic factors.
Factors Contributing to Malaria Prevalence
The prevalence of malaria is influenced by several factors, including:
- Climate – Anopheles mosquito vectors thrive in warm and humid environments, making tropical and subtropical regions of the world more susceptible to malaria.
- Environmental factors – A lack of sanitation and control of breeding sites can lead to an increase in the number of mosquito vectors, thus increasing the risk of malaria transmission.
- Socio-economic factors – Poverty, poor access to healthcare, and a lack of education can contribute to the spread of malaria.
- Resistance to anti-malarial drugs – The emergence and spread of drug-resistant strains of the parasite are a major challenge to malaria control programs.
The Role of International Organizations in Controlling Malaria
The WHO and other international organizations are leading efforts to control and eliminate malaria worldwide. The WHO’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 aims to reduce global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030.
Several prevention and control measures are being implemented to achieve these goals, including:
- Insecticide-treated mosquito nets
- Indoor residual spraying
- Case management and treatment
- Preventive therapy for pregnant women and children under five years of age
- Research and development of new tools and strategies for malaria control and elimination
Malaria is a major public health problem that affects millions of people worldwide. The disease is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, with the highest burden of malaria in Africa.
The fight against malaria requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that includes prevention, control, and treatment measures, as well as research and development of new tools and strategies. International organizations such as the WHO are leading efforts to control and eliminate malaria worldwide, but more needs to be done to achieve this goal.
FAQs about Malaria
- 1. What is the main cause of malaria?
- 2. Is there a vaccine for malaria?
- 3. What are the symptoms of malaria?
- 4. Can malaria be cured?
- 5. What is the most effective way to control malaria?
Malaria is caused by the parasite Plasmodium and transmitted through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
There is currently no licensed vaccine for malaria, but several are in development.
Malaria is characterized by flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue.
Malaria can be cured with prompt and effective treatment, which typically involves a combination of anti-malarial drugs.
The most effective way to control malaria is by targeting the mosquito vector through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying, and other measures.
- World Health Organization. (2020). Malaria. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria
- World Health Organization. (2020). Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030. https://www.who.int/malaria/areas/global_technical_strategy/en/
- Roll Back Malaria Partnership. (2019). The Global Malaria Action Plan. https://www.rollbackmalaria.org/files/files/gmap/gmap2011_en.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Malaria. https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/index.html