- During the COVID-19 pandemic, other diseases are still infecting and killing millions of people around the world, writes Bill Gates.
- It is important that those infected with diseases such as malaria, HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis continue to receive adequate care, medical care and medical care.
- Lockdowns have already made it difficult for health workers to prevent and treat malaria in many parts of Africa.
- Governments need to work together to tackle infection holistically.
Mosquitoes do not practice social distancing. They don’t wear masks either.
With the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it should be noted that the world’s deadliest animal did not take a break during this pandemic.
Mosquitoes bite every night and infect millions of people with malaria – a disease that kills one child in two every day.
Most of these deaths occur in the poorest countries with the weakest health systems. Now they face the added burden of stopping the coronavirus. And in many of these countries, COVID-19 cases are likely to peak at the worst possible time: the peak of their malaria transmission season.
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, endemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV / AIDS contributed to many more deaths than Ebola as the epidemic disrupted local health systems. Health officials fear this could also happen with COVID-19.
Every night mosquitoes bite and infect millions of people with malaria
Image: Gates Notes
Bans and social distancing regulations have already made it difficult for health workers to prevent and treat malaria in many parts of Africa. There have also been disruptions in the supply of critical malaria tools such as bed nets, anti-malarial drugs and rapid diagnostic tests, which have helped reduce the number of malaria deaths by more than half since 2000.
Now this incredible advance may be in jeopardy. A recent model analysis by the World Health Organization found that malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa would hit the death rate that has not been seen since 2000. An estimated 764,000 people died from the malaria pandemic in Africa that year, most of them children.
There is no choice between saving lives from COVID-19 or saving lives from malaria. The world must allow these countries to do both. Health officials urgently need to face the challenge of keeping the pandemic under control while ensuring that malaria, as well as other diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, are not neglected.
For malaria, this means continuing the campaigns to deliver long-lasting bed nets treated with insecticides, control mosquito populations with indoor spraying, and preventive treatment for pregnant women and children in high-risk communities. At the same time, health care workers must deliver these services without exposing their communities to the risk of the coronavirus.
The good news is that many countries are finding ways to maintain critical malaria programs in the face of the pandemic. In Benin, a country in West Africa with one of the highest levels of malaria in the world, this year the government, together with the Catholic relief services and our foundation, developed a new, innovative method of distributing bed nets throughout the country. With smartphones, real-time data collection and satellite mapping, Benin has helped ensure that all families, no matter where they live, are protected by a bed net at night. And scientists have not interrupted their research efforts to find new ways to prevent malaria and control mosquito populations, such as those carried out in “Mosquito City” in Tanzania.
It is exciting to see how some existing malaria programs are also helping to control COVID-19. For example, emergency response centers tracking malaria outbreaks in Africa are now being used to monitor the spread of COVID-19. By tracking the shape and movement of the pandemic in different countries and regions, health officials can also deepen their understanding of the health conditions in communities, which in turn helps improve their responses to malaria in those areas.
The advances the world has made against malaria are one of the greatest global health success stories. The COVID-19 pandemic is only compounding why malaria eradication is so important. As long as malaria persists, it will continue to flare up, affecting the most vulnerable communities. Liberating the world from preventable, treatable diseases like malaria will save millions of lives and lead to healthier, more prosperous communities. This will make them better prepared for new health challenges like COVID-19 in the future.