U.S. broadens effort to combat malaria in Africa

The U.S. is expanding an initiative that has already helped more than 480 million people who were at risk of contracting malaria, a life-threatening disease typically transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Four African countries — Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Sierra Leone — will begin U.S.-backed programs for malaria prevention and treatment while an existing U.S. program in Burkina Faso will become larger, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced. “We now contribute to effective malaria prevention and controls for over a half a billion people” in Africa, USAID Administrator Mark Green said.

The effort is called the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, first launched in 2005. With the addition of these countries, the U.S. initiative will have programs in 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria remains a significant public health problem.

“We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like … the President’s Malaria Initiative,” President Trump said in September 19 remarks to the U.N. General Assembly.

Woman with her family holding up mosquito net in a home (© K. Kasmauski/MCSP)
Treated nets protect a family in Ghana from mosquitoes in their home. (© K. Kasmauski/MCSP)

The United States has actively contributed to global malaria activities since the 1950s, and today it is the largest donor in the global effort to eradicate the disease.

Although preventable and treatable, malaria sickens millions of people each year with its painful fever, headache and chills. An estimated 190 million Africans contracted the disease in 2015. The continent accounts for about 90 percent of all cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Nearly 394,000 Africans died, mostly children under the age of 5.

Man with raised arm standing inside back of truck and package in the air (© Riccardo Gangale/VectorWorks)
A man unloads nets to be distributed to families in Tanzania. (© Riccardo Gangale/VectorWorks)

The President’s Malaria Initiative works with countries and other organizations to help local communities prevent malaria by providing these items and services:

  • Nets treated with an insecticide that go over beds to protect people while they sleep.
  • Indoor spraying that safely applies insecticide to walls and ceilings on which malaria-carrying mosquitoes are likely to rest.
  • Anti-malarial medicine during the malaria season (the rainy season between June and September).

The initiative also boosts countries’ health systems and improves malaria diagnosis and drug treatment services.

“The fight against malaria works through strong partnerships, public and private, America and most countries,” Green said. “This is not something that any of us can do alone.”