Let’s end malaria for good

The global effort to combat malaria is paying off.

Worldwide, new malaria cases fell by 21 percent in a recent five-year period, thanks in large part to more communities using insecticide-treated nets and spraying indoors to kill the mosquitoes that cause malaria.

The fight is not over, however. Malaria threatens about half of the world’s population. The disease sickens millions of people each year with its painful fever, headache and chills, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, 429,000 people died from the disease.

One important way to reduce malaria transmission is “indoor residual spraying,” applying insecticide to walls and ceilings where malaria-carrying mosquitoes are likely to rest.

Communities — including Malindi, a town in southwestern Kenya — that have taken proactive measures have seen huge drops in malaria cases.

Here are steps that Malindi’s “Mosquito Scouts” take to reduce malaria cases:

  • Drain mosquitoes’ watery breeding grounds.
  • Apply environmentally friendly insecticides in high-risk areas.
  • Monitor the insects’ habitat.
  • Distribute insecticide-treated nets.

The local hospital, which treated 10,000 people for malaria in 2002, now sees only about 500 cases per year.

“Communities can lead the way toward eliminating malaria in Africa and around the world,” writes Janet Midega, a malaria specialist at a University of Oxford research center.

World Malaria Day is April 25, 2017.