Access to the right treatments can dramatically decrease the effects of malaria in children


The facts:

  • Malaria kills more than 450,000 children under age five each year;
  • A child dies every minute from malaria;
  • The disease is better controlled in affected areas of Asia and South America, but drug-resistance is a growing problem.

The situation:

Malaria is caused by mosquitoes spreading a parasite from one person to another.  The disease is characterised by flu-like symptoms, including vomiting, fever and headaches, which begin nine to 14 days after being bitten.  When severe or not well treated, it can lead to death.

The number of children under the age of five dying from malaria has halved since 2000 and is predicted to fall still further over the next two years, according to the World Health Organisation's flagship report on the disease. However, the numbers of deaths are still tragic, and the economic loss caused by the illness is appalling—because so many people are infected by malaria, they miss school and work, accounting for more than 30 per cent of school absenteeism and US$12 billion lost in the economy every year in Africa alone.  Furthermore, the disease can cause permanent brain damage in children.  All this contributes to an on-going cycle of poverty which leads to future generations being malnourished, lacking access to clinics and otherwise being vulnerable to killers like malaria.

Malaria is most likely to occur where there are a large number of people, a large number of mosquitoes, and a lack of prevention measures which keep the mosquitoes from getting to people.  Changing any of these factors, for example by sufficiently reducing mosquito population or increasing prevention measures, can result in the elimination of the parasite from the area, or, theoretically, from the world.

What can be done about it?

To reduce the causes of malaria in children:

  • Insecticide-treated mosquito nets hung to prevent mosquitos from getting to people while they are sleeping;
  • Indoor spraying with insecticide;
  • A nutritional diet for all children under five to ensure that they have the strength to fight the infection if they do get it;
  • Increased public and parental education on how to prevent the spread of malaria
  • Greater political commitment and funding to prevent and treat the disease since is needed to continue to cut incidences of malaria globally.

To reduce the effects of malaria in children:

  • Access to the right treatment and medication for diagnosed cases of malaria;
  • Training of community health workers and implementation of mobile health technology to connect them to nurses and doctors.