The World Health Organization says that care interruption could lead to tens of thousands more deaths.

Children play in the vapour as a civic worker fumigates a slum area as a preventive measure against malaria and dengue in Mumbai in June. India has made great progress in tackling the mosquito-borne disease, according to the WHO [File: Punit Paranjpe/AFP]

The World Health Organization (WHO) informed in its annual report on mosquito-borne disease on Monday that funding shortfalls and delays to care in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic danger that tens of thousands more lives will be lost to malaria.

The UN Health Agency shared fear that even minor delays to access to healthcare could result in a “significant loss of life.”

The study found that a 10-percent reduction in access to successful anti-malarial care could result in an additional 19,000 deaths. That figure grew to 46,000 with an access disruption of 25 percent and 100,000 with a disruption of 50 percent.

The WHO’s latest world report on malaria, which is preventable and treatable and mainly affects countries in Asia and Africa, shows progress against the disease had already slowed when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged earlier this year.

In 2019, there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, an annual figure that has remained virtually unchanged over the past four years. Some 409,000 people died from the disease in 2019 compared with 411,000 in 2018.

According to estimates by the health organization, the global goal of lowering the prevalence of malaria in 2020 would be missed by 37 percent and the target of reducing mortality will be missed by 22 percent.

The 11 countries following the anti malaria strategy, 10 of them in Africa, have tailored their responses to the disease based on local data and intelligence.

Although the review is still in its early days, the report found deaths in the 11 countries participating in the scheme were reduced from 263,000 to 226,000 between 2018 and 2019.  India reported reductions in cases and deaths of 18 percent  and 20 percent respectively, over the last two years.

The report shows 21 countries have eliminated malaria over the last 20 years; of these, 10 countries have been officially certified as malaria-free by the WHO.

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