Malaria continues to be a major disease worldwide, but while funding projects are working hard to improve malaria prevention it is difficult to measure how effective these interventions are. Research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Malaria Journal has used a Lives Saved Tool (LiST) model to show that the increase in funding for the prevention of malaria has prevented 850,000 child deaths in the decade between 2001 and 2010 across Africa.
According to the WHO, malaria caused an estimated 655,000 deaths in 2010, mostly among African children. They estimate that a child dies every minute due to malaria in Africa. These are deaths which are unnecessary, because malaria is both preventable and curable. In addition to diagnosis and treatment of sick children, simple solutions to prevent disease like insecticide treated mosquito nets (ITN) and malaria prevention during pregnancy have all been shown to reduce the number of deaths due to malaria. Initiatives like Roll Back Malaria aim to reduce child mortality due to malaria by two thirds, by 2015, using large scale implementation of these simple solutions.
Researchers at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins, the WHO and the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), used the LiST model to investigate the impact of malaria prevention in the decade between 2001 and 2010 across 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is endemic. The team, led by Thomas Eisele, associate professor of global health systems and development, based their model on UN estimates of malaria deaths over the year 2000 and future population growth, the effectiveness of ITNs and malaria prevention during pregnancy in preventing child deaths, and the number of households using ITNs to protect their children.
The LiST model conservatively estimates that malaria prevention has saved 850,000 children’s lives over the past decade. Of these, 99 percent were saved by using ITN alone.
“Malaria continues to cause a tremendous amount of child deaths throughout Africa,” says Eisele. “If 100 percent of the children at risk of malaria had insecticide mosquito nets we estimate as many as 2.77 million additional children’s lives could be saved by 2015.”
These figures are believed to be the lower estimate of deaths prevented by anti-malaria initiatives since they do not include the impact of better access to treatment with anti-malarials. The threat of malaria remains, however, and both prevention and treatment plans need to be sustained for these improvements to be maintained.