Africa-Press – Kenya. Globally malaria cases exceeded pre-coronavirus pandemic levels and hit 249 million amid a growing number of threats against the global response, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.
The report noted that there were 233 million cases in 2019 and said the global response faced a growing number of threats, including drug and insecticide resistance, humanitarian crises, resource constraints, climate change effects and delays in program implementation, particularly in countries with a high burden of disease.
It also explored the link between climate change and malaria and found the behavior and survival of the malaria-transmitting Anopheles mosquito can be affected by changes in temperature, humidity and rainfall.
Transmission and disease burden can also be directly affected by extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods, it said.
Catastrophic flooding in Pakistan in 2022, according to the report, led to “a fivefold increase” in malaria cases in that country.
“The changing climate poses a substantial risk to progress against malaria, particularly in vulnerable regions,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Sustainable and resilient malaria responses are needed now more than ever, coupled with urgent actions to slow the pace of global warming and reduce its effects.”
Little is known about how climate change affects malaria transmission in the long term, but the direction and extent of the effects will probably vary across social and ecological contexts, within and between countries, said the report.
There were 5 million more malaria cases worldwide in 2022 than the previous year, it found, with five countries most affected. Pakistan experienced the most significant increase, with 2.6 million cases in 2022 compared to 500,000 in 2021.
Ethiopia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda also experienced notable increases.
“Meanwhile, in the 11 countries that carry the highest burden of malaria, rates of new infections and deaths have levelled off following an initial upsurge during the first year of the pandemic,” it said, adding that those countries reported an estimated 167 million cases and 426,000 deaths in 2022.
Given current trends, progress toward critical 2025 milestones of the WHO global malaria strategy is “off track by a wide margin,” it warned.