The number of cases and deaths related to malaria has been declining steadily for 15 years, but the mosquito-transmitted disease continues to kill more than 400,000 people each year. Ninety per cent of the deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Seventy per cent are children.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3.2 billion people (nearly half of the world’s population) were at risk of malaria in 2015 and 95 countries and territories had ongoing malaria transmission. Some groups are at higher risk of contracting malaria, and developing severe disease, than others – including infants, children under five years of age, pregnant women, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Suffering and loss of life from malaria are tragically unnecessary because the disease is largely preventable, detectable and treatable.
For more information: WHO malaria fact sheet
- Transmission: Malaria is a parasitic infection transmitted by the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are infected by feeding on a person carrying parasites.
- Signs and symptoms: Malaria begins as a flu-like illness, with symptoms including fever, joint pain, headaches, frequent vomiting, convulsions and coma. If left untreated, it can become severe. Death from malaria may be due to brain damage (cerebral malaria), or damage to vital organs.
- Diagnosis: Diagnosing malaria is done with rapid tests or looking for the parasite under a microscope in a blood smear.
- Treatment: Artemisinin-based combination therapy is the most effective treatment. A course of antimalarial pills for a baby can cost as little as 32 cents.
- Prevention and control: Insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying are the main methods of prevention; malaria can also be prevented by using antimalarial medicines, also known as 'chemoprophylaxis'.
MSF treated more than 2.5 million cases of malaria in 2016. Since 2001, the WHO has recommended using artemisinin-based combination therapies to treat malaria. The use of these new treatments contributed significantly to the remarkable reduction in the number of malaria-related deaths in the last 15 years. However, resistance to artemisinin has been documented in some regions – enabled, at least in part, by the use of monotherapies (artemisinin alone, not in combination with other drugs), counterfeit and poor-quality drugs, and treatment interruptions once symptoms have abated. It could get worse and become a greater threat to public health, too, because there will not be any replacements for artemisinin treatment available for several years. In Cambodia, where growing artemisinin resistance is a particular threat, MSF is researching how resistant malaria spreads and evaluating which strategies could contribute to the elimination of the disease locally.
In 2012, MSF teams in Mali and Chad staged one of the first large-scale seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) campaigns, providing pre-emptive malaria treatment to children in places where the disease is seasonally endemic through repeated administration of antimalarials. MSF is now implementing this strategy in five countries, and the strategy has been integrated into the national policies of 13 countries in the Sahel region of Africa with highly seasonal transmission. More than 15 million children should be covered in 2016. This strategy is not intended to become a permanent tool to combat the disease, however. The protective effect of SMC is relative and of limited duration, ceasing several weeks after completed. Thus, it is a valuable approach to save lives in some contexts, but we still need more comprehensive, longer-lasting solutions.
After decades of research, ‘RTS,S’ is the first malaria vaccine to have completed clinical development. However, its efficacy is limited, particularly against the severe forms of the disease, and it is complicated to use. It requires four doses, two of which have to be separated by 18 months. Further pilot studies with this vaccine by other actors will start in 2018. MSF continues to call for ongoing research to develop a safe, efficacious, inexpensive vaccine that is easy to use in developing countries. This is a call that needs to be answered by pharmaceutical companies, research bodies, and national and international health bodies alike if we want the keep up the momentum in the fight against malaria.
- Access to essential medicineApply Access to essential medicine filter (56)
- Access to healthcareApply Access to healthcare filter (65)
- Child healthApply Child health filter (71)
- Health policyApply Health policy filter (3)
- Maternal healthApply Maternal health filter (27)
- Mental healthApply Mental health filter (15)
- MigrantApply Migrant filter (102)
- Mobile clinicApply Mobile clinic filter (38)
- Neglected diseasesApply Neglected diseases filter (14)
- Reconstructive surgeryApply Reconstructive surgery filter (3)
- Refugees and internally displaced peopleApply Refugees and internally displaced people filter (102)
- Sexual violenceApply Sexual violence filter (12)
- Sustainable Development GoalsApply Sustainable Development Goals filter (2)
- VaccinationApply Vaccination filter (44)
- Water and sanitationApply Water and sanitation filter (46)
- Buruli ulcerApply Buruli ulcer filter (1)
- Chagas diseaseApply Chagas disease filter (1)
- Dengue feverApply Dengue fever filter (5)
- EbolaApply Ebola filter (14)
- Hepatitis BApply Hepatitis B filter (1)
- Hepatitis CApply Hepatitis C filter (2)
- HIV/AIDSApply HIV/AIDS filter (63)
- Infectious diseasesApply Infectious diseases filter (96)
- Kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis)Apply Kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) filter (10)
- LeishmaniasisApply Leishmaniasis filter (10)
- MalariaApply Malaria filter (331)
- MalnutritionApply Malnutrition filter (64)
- Marburg hemorrhagic feverApply Marburg hemorrhagic fever filter (1)
- MeaslesApply Measles filter (36)
- Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)Apply Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) filter (1)
- Parasitic diseasesApply Parasitic diseases filter (331)
- PlagueApply Plague filter (1)
- Pneumococcal diseaseApply Pneumococcal disease filter (4)
- PolioApply Polio filter (2)
- Sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis)Apply Sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis) filter (7)
- TuberculosisApply Tuberculosis filter (52)
- 2017Apply 2017 filter (30)
- 2016Apply 2016 filter (61)
- 2015Apply 2015 filter (56)
- 2014Apply 2014 filter (43)
- 2013Apply 2013 filter (23)
- 2012Apply 2012 filter (15)
- 2011Apply 2011 filter (11)
- 2010Apply 2010 filter (6)
- 2009Apply 2009 filter (2)
- 2008Apply 2008 filter (5)
- 2007Apply 2007 filter (5)
- 2006Apply 2006 filter (3)
- 2005Apply 2005 filter (14)
- 2004Apply 2004 filter (38)
- 2003Apply 2003 filter (12)
- 2002Apply 2002 filter (3)
- 2001Apply 2001 filter (1)
- 2000Apply 2000 filter (1)
- 1999Apply 1999 filter (1)
- 1998Apply 1998 filter (1)