Apr 29, 2020 - World

WHO leader: Malaria deaths in Africa could double due to coronavirus

In this image, a man carries mosquito nets

Barthelemy Agbohozou stores mosquito nets in Pahou, Benin, on April 28, ahead of a distribution aimed at fighting malaria amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Yanick Folly/AFP via Getty Images

One worst-case scenario caused by the novel coronavirus is that the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The big picture: Roughly 380,000 people living in countries observed by WHO's African Region died from malaria in 2018, the latest year that data from WHO is available.

What's happening: 41 African countries may not have full access to malaria vaccines this year due to COVID-19's disruptions to immunization efforts, Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Monday.

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into its fight against malaria, has shifted all of its attention to the coronavirus.
  • “Our priority is to ensure continuity of lifesaving programs to end HIV, TB and malaria. However, COVID-19 could knock us off track," Peter Sands, the Global Fund's executive director, said last month. "People infected with HIV, TB and malaria could prove more vulnerable to the new virus given that their immune systems are already under strain.”
  • Up to 12 million children's polio vaccinations have been put on hold in Africa, the New York Times reports.

Background: The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 1,534 deaths from the coronavirus in most of the African Union's member states, with more than 35,000 cases and 11,000 recoveries.

Go deeper: Africa's coronavirus crisis arrived before the outbreak

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