Aus: "The Economist", online veröffentlicht am 10.10.2015
The end is in sight for one of humanity’s deadliest plagues
In a dusty yard in Magagasi, a small village in eastern Swaziland, a man in surgical gloves draws Gugu Dlamini’s blood for the third time this year. The health worker lays a drop of it on a small plastic tray and adds a clear solution. The ritual is familiar. Every time a malaria case is reported in the country, surveillance officers sweep in and test everyone living within 500 metres of the sick person. In a few minutes a single line appears in the tray’s indicator window: Ms Dlamini does not have malaria.
Such vigilance has brought Swaziland to the threshold of becoming the first malaria-free country in sub-Saharan Africa, the part of the world most blighted by the disease (see map). Swaziland’s struggle is part of a wider battle that the world is waging—and winning. If it succeeds, Swaziland will join more than 100 countries that have eliminated malaria within their borders.
Since 2000, malaria deaths around the world have fallen by nearly half. The steepest drop has come in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of fatalities occur. Malaria still kills around 450,000 people each year (see chart 1)—most of them children in Africa. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that better control prevented the deaths of 3.9m African children between 2001 and 2013.
Such progress breeds optimism. The WHO believes that malaria cases and deaths could both fall by another 90% in the next 15 years. At a summit in November, heads of state from East Asia will endorse a plan to make the region free of malaria by 2030. The Gates Foundation, an important source of funds for antimalarial research and control efforts, believes it can be eradicated completely by 2040.
That would rank among humanity’s greatest achievements. Malaria has killed people since the dawn of man. In 1900 it was endemic in almost every country on Earth and throughout the first half of the 20th century it killed 2m people a year. Bringing malaria to heel has required not just money but also imagination, persistence and political will. Elimination would save millions of lives and trillions of dollars in lost productivity and health costs, mostly in poor countries.
Optimism, however, should be tempered by the recollection that past endeavours have failed. A global eradication effort begun in 1955 dramatically decreased malaria deaths over the following decade. But because of flaws in the programme, such as overreliance on too few drugs and a lack of adequately trained doctors, and because funding dried up as malaria cases fell, the disease came flying back. Laying the scourge to rest for good requires yesterday’s failures to inform today’s plans.
Source: The Economist.
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