Malaria kills 3,000 African children every day and drains billions of pounds from the continent’s economy each year – even though its spread can be easily controlled, a UN agency said today.
The parasitic disease kills more than one million people a year in Africa and has developed resistance to chloroquine – the cheapest and most commonly used treatment, said a report by the UN World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Resistance is also developing to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, the drug routinely used to replace chloroquine, it said.
Regardless, the spread of malaria can be controlled and those afflicted with the disease treated for a fraction of the £7.5bn (€10.8bn) malaria is estimated to cost Africa each year, the report said.
The most effective treatment for malaria is artemisinin-based combination drugs, it said. Each treatment costs 60p (€0.86) to £1.90 (€2.74).
The death of newborn babies can be prevented by giving pregnant women anti-malarial drugs as part of normal prenatal care, the report said.
However, government health care spending is low in most African countries - typically less than £9.50 (€13.72) per person a year.
Despite the cost of treatment, the spread of malaria can be easily controlled.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitos. Draining puddles and other stagnant water - the breeding ground of the insects – around dwellings can reduce its spread, the report said.
Sleeping under nets treated with insecticides can cut transmission by more than half, it said.
However, “most of the costs of preventing and treating malaria in Africa today are in fact borne by people themselves,” the report said.
And the price of the nets – about £3 each – “still puts this lifesaving technology beyond the reach of” the vast majority of people living on the world’s poorest continent.