Inappropriate use of antimalarial drugs in the past century contributed to widespread resistance in the malaria parasite to drugs such as chloroquine, leading to rising rates of sickness and death. Over the past decade, a new group of antimalarials – known as artemisinin-based combination therapies – has brought new hope in the fight against malaria.
The main objective of malaria vector control is to significantly reduce the rate and number of cases of both parasite infection and clinical malaria. This is achieved by controlling the malaria-bearing mosquito and thereby reducing or interrupting transmission.
Long-lasting insecticidal nets can be used to provide protection to risk groups, especially young children and pregnant women in high transmission areas. This provides personal protection. The nets can also protect communities when coverage is high enough (more than 80% of people in a target community sleeping inside them). The nets are effective for a number of years (3 to 5 years, depending on models and conditions of use).
Indoor residual spraying is the most effective means of rapidly reducing mosquito density. Its full potential is obtained when at least 80 % of premises with malaria vectors are sprayed. Indoor spraying is effective for 3 to 6 months, depending on the insecticide used and the type of surface on which it is sprayed. (DDT is effective for longer periods, up to 12 months in some cases).
Pregnant women are at high risk not only of dying from the complications of severe malaria, but also spontaneous abortion, premature delivery or stillbirth. Malaria is also a cause of severe maternal anaemia and is responsible for about one third of preventable low birth weight babies. It contributes to the deaths of an estimated 10 000 pregnant women and up to
200 000 infants each year in Africa alone.
Malaria causes an average loss of 1.3% of annual economic growth in countries with intense transmission. It traps families and communities in a downward spiral of poverty, disproportionately affecting marginalized and poor people who cannot afford treatment or who have limited access to health care. Malaria has lifelong effects through increased poverty and impaired learning. It cuts attendance at schools and workplaces. However, it is preventable and curable.