Every year, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children living in Africa, succumb to malaria, an age-old mosquito-borne scourge.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 627,000 people died in 2020, an increase of 12 per cent from 2019, mainly due to "disturbances" in access to care linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before 2020, steady progress on the transmission and treatment of malaria had been made, mostly through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, testing and effective drugs.
World Malaria Day was established in May 2007 to provide "education and understanding of malaria" and is commemorated every year on 25 April to recognise global efforts to control malaria.
Half the world at risk
Malaria is a threat to half the world's population. Some 241 million cases were recorded worldwide in 2020, 14 million more than a year earlier.
The vast majority of cases and deaths occur in Africa: where 260,000 children die from it each year.
Half the world's cases in 2020 were reported from four African countries: Nigeria (31.9 per cent of known cases), DR Congo (13.2 per cent), Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Mozambique (3.8 per cent).
Children under five are the most vulnerable.
In 2020, some 80 per cent of the total malaria deaths on the African continent were in this age category.
Several preventative treatments are available.
In October 2021, the WHO recommended "broad use" of the world's first malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa.
The RTS,S vaccine, which is made by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, was found to considerably reduce child mortality.
More than 155 million dollars have been mobilized by the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) to enable its delivery.
Other vaccines are on the horizon, including one developed by Oxford University, Matrix-M, which in trials has shown very high efficacy.
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