Facts about Malaria

Ancient scourge of mankind

Malaria, an ancient scourge of mankind, causes a heavy burden of mortality and morbidity in populations living in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, Report 2013), 3.4 billion people (40% of the world’s population) live in areas of risk. In 2012, ca. 230 million clinical malaria cases were reported and about 627,000 patients, primarily children below the age of 5, died due to malaria – more than 1,000 young lives lost every day.

Countries where malaria is endemic face serious public health problems: the disease causes not only most severe individual suffering, it has also a deleterious impact at many levels of people’s life including education, worker productivity, fertility and medical costs. Important and increasingly urgent, malaria severely impedes travel to endemic areas, and, concomitantly, investments and exchange of experts, crucial preconditions for infrastructural and economic development.

Global programs to fight malaria including eradication of the mosquito carrier, bednets, etc. have been successful, particularly during the past decade. However, the continuation of these programs depends on sustained political commitment, financial resources and a high degree of compliance. Much of the success relies on effective medication against the malaria-causing parasite and the use of insecticides against the parasite-transmitting mosquito. Alarmingly, resistances against both classes of chemo-prophylaxes are developing with accelerating rates.

Effective malaria vaccines will develop into central instruments of any malaria control strategy, due to their preventive nature, the potentially long lasting protection and their cost effectiveness. They will be pivotal in any malaria elimination (local) or eradication (global) program.