Ending Malaria. It Can Happen. It Will Happen.
For you, a mosquito bite might be an itchy nuisance. But for half the world’s population, a mosquito bite can bring horrific illness, and even death. That’s because a mosquito bite can deliver the parasite that causes malaria—a disease that kills over 400,000 people every year, 90% of them in sub-Saharan and more than two-thirds of them under age 5.
More than 200 million people contract malaria every year. And even when malaria isn’t deadly, it keeps children from attending school and parents from going to work. People and economies suffer.
Throughout our 75-year history, many CRS staff have experienced the disease. In 2009 we lost a colleague to malaria.
To prevent malaria, we have distributed millions of bed nets that keep mosquitos, which are most active at night, away from sleeping children and their parents. We’ve learned more about malaria along the way. Education on properly using bed nets is critical. And the bed nets are more effective if treated with long-lasting insecticides.
In the West African country of Niger, CRS distributed 14 million bed nets in 2018, working with the Nigerian Ministry of Health. Since at least two people sleep under each one, the bed net distribution protected nearly 30 million people. In 2017, a distribution of over 1 million bed nets in Gambia protected the entire country from malaria.
With more attention worldwide focused on this disease, the number of deaths from malaria fell by 34% between 2010-2015. The widespread distribution and proper use of bed nets is a major reason why malaria has declined. However, reduced trends show a stalling in the global progress of reduction malaria rates.
Nevertheless, elimination is the goal—and a real possibility. That’s because malaria doesn’t originate in the mosquitos: They pick up the parasite from a person who has the disease and carry it to someone else. If we interrupt that transmission cycle—as most industrialized nations have—malaria disappears.
In The Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Niger, CRS is providing anti-malarial medication to children ages 3 months to 5 years during the rainy season, when mosquitos become more plentiful. These young children are most at risk for severe illness and death from malaria, so they receive anti-malarials once a month throughout the 3 to 4 months each year when the risk is higher to stop them from getting malaria.
The World Health Organization estimates that this seasonal treatment can prevent 70% of deaths from malaria. That means this CRS program will save tens of thousands of lives while paving a path toward eliminating malaria once and for all.