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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Malaria Prevention and Treatment

The Challenge

In Africa a child dies every 45 seconds of Malaria. The disease accounts for 20% of all childhood deaths and is one of the leading killers of children aged under five. In addition to claiming one million lives a year, the disease deepens and reinforces poverty in some of the poorest areas of the world.

Malaria is a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Malaria afflicts as many as half a billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Until as recently as 60 years ago, malaria was also a problem in Europe and North America. Simple public health measures eliminated the disease there.

An estimated 3 billion people, almost half of the world’s population, live in areas where malaria transmission occurs. Warm, humid climates provide ideal conditions for mosquitoes to develop and survive. Regions with high average temperatures support the development of the malaria parasite in mosquitoes.

Transmission is more intense in Africa where mosquitoes have longer lives and bite humans rather than other animals. More than 85 percent of the world’s malaria deaths are in Africa.

According to the Roll Back Malaria initiative, malaria costs Africa at least US$ 12 billion in direct losses and much more than that in lost economic growth each year.


The Solution and Research

Malaria is preventable and curable. Many lives can be saved by preventing transmission of malaria in the first place. This involves expanding coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets, expanding use of intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women; and the use of indoor residual spraying with DDT.

If malaria is not treated within 24 hours, it can progress to severe illness often leading to death. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria can be crucial. As malaria becomes increasingly resistant to standard inexpensive drugs, it is important to finance Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs).

Artemisinin is about 10 times more expensive than the mainstay treatment, choroquine, which is becoming less effective. The design of instruments for financing a rapid transition to effective new treatments such as ACTs is a high priority.

The Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm) is a particularly attractive financing mechanism for committing resources to malaria control. Under this scheme, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria reduces the manufacturer sales price of ACTs to public, private and not-for-profit sector buyers.

In ‘Disease Control’, a research paper for the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 project, Dean Jamison et al. concluded that spending .5 billion on expanding the provision of insecticide-treated bed-nets and on the provision of ACTs would avert 500,000 mostly child deaths annually. Taking into account the reduced costs for the health system, increased health and productivity, the benefits would be in the region of twenty-times higher than the costs.


Where to Find Out More

The Copenhagen Consensus research that this section draws from:

Disease Control: Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Assessment Paper
Dean Jamison, P. Jha, D.E. Bloom

Disease Control Chapter
in Global Crises, Global Solutions second edition
edited by Bjorn Lomborg

The Expert Panel's individual rankings and further elaboration can be found in the book, Global Crises, Global Solutions, second edition.