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Blog by Rima Shretta in the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Global Health (Nuffield Department of Medicine). As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its path to LMICs, its impact is likely to be even more devastating, potentially reversing recent gains made in the management of other communicable diseases. Of particular concern is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on malaria. COVID-19 has been slow to arrive and spread across Africa; nevertheless, there are many reasons to be concerned about malaria within the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Vanuata 2012

The virus that causes COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has rapidly spread across the world. On April 23, there were more than 2.7 million reported cases and 192,000 deaths globally. As the pandemic continues its path to low and low-middle income countries (LMICs), its impact is likely to be even more devastating, potentially reversing recent gains made in the management of other communicable diseases.

Of particular concern is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on malaria. There were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria and it caused 405,000 deaths in 2018. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93% of all cases and 94% of deaths, with more than two-thirds of deaths occurring among children below the age of five. The majority of people in malaria-endemic countries live in poverty and already face struggling health care systems and a scarcity of skilled health workers, both of which present additional barriers to accessing health care services. Nonetheless, progress in tackling malaria in the past 15 years has been notable. Both cases and deaths due to malaria have declined by about 50% since 2000. During this period, an additional eleven countries were declared malaria free by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, since 2014, due to extrinsic challenges (of which financing was one), progress has stalled. Without any risk mitigation strategies, disruption to malaria programs as a result of the spread of COVID-19 in malaria-endemic countries will set progress back even further.

Read the full blog on the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Global Health website