The Gambia does malaria

Some good news out of the West African country of Gambia: a stunning reduction in malaria in the last five years as a result of some fairly simple techniques:

Incidence of malaria in Gambia has plunged thanks to an array of low-cost strategies, offering the tempting vision of eliminating this disease in parts of Africa, a study published Friday by The Lancet said.

At four key monitoring sites in the small West African state, the number of malarial cases fell by between 50 percent and 82 percent between 2003 and 2007, its authors found.

The tally of deaths from malaria, recorded at two hospitals where there had been a total of 29 fatalities out of 232 admissions in 2003, fell by nine-tenths and 100 percent in 2007. A fall of 100 percent means that no deaths attributed to malaria occurred that year.

"A large proportion of the malaria burden has been alleviated in Africa," the study concludes.

The authors also found a substantial shift in the age of Gambian children being admitted for care -- from an average of 3.9 years in 2003 to 5.6 years in 2007.

This is important because young children and infants bear the brunt of malaria mortality. (Agence France Presse)

The low cost strategies are insecticide-treated bed nets, intermittent preventive treatment and targeting pregnant women and children under five and indoor spraying with insecticides that leave a residual. Malaria kills an estimated one million children a year and the prevalence of the disease is said to be almost a quarter billion people. Even when the disease doesn't kill, it exacts a frightful toll in pain, suffering and loss of productivity.

Ebola and other frightening diseases command a lot of attention but the real monsters are ancient scourges like schistosomiasis and malaria, although newcomer HIV has a claim to equal status as an agent of biological holocaust.

There is so much bad news about these diseases, its nice to be able to note something hopeful.

More like this

And the good news just keeps on coming! One hundred percent reduction? Yes, we can!

100% reduction wont be in our grasp until we get better methods, these buggers are increasingly growing resistant to common pesticides.

But for now these steps are vital to securing a decent future for Africa. The loss of productivity from diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, HIV and various parasites are far worse for the state of Africa than things like Ebola when it comes to developing the area.

'"A large proportion of the malaria burden has been alleviated in Africa," the study concludes.'

This is great news for Gambia. It is worth noting though that Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and all African countries have different health policies. Consequently I am skeptical of the generalization of the result to the whole of Africa.

Kudos to the Gates foundation for supporting malaria and HIV research in the Gambia. (Not sure if they are connected with this study).