More malaria cases and deaths in 2020 linked to COVID-19 disruptions
New data from the World Health Organization reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted malaria services, leading to a marked increase in cases and deaths.
According to WHO’s latest World malaria report, there were an estimated 241 million malaria cases and 627 000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2020. This represents about 14 million more cases in 2020 compared to 2019, and 69 000 more deaths. Approximately two-thirds of these additional deaths (47 000) were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic.
However, the situation could have been far worse. In the early days of pandemic, WHO had projected that – with severe service disruptions – malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could potentially double in 2020. But many countries took urgent action to shore up their malaria programmes, averting this worst-case scenario.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to carry the heaviest malaria burden, accounting for about 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of all deaths in 2020. About 80% of deaths in the region are among children under 5 years of age. For more on the World Malaria Report 2021, read here.