Overview: What is Malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the blood parasite Plasmodium, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. It was once thought that the disease came from fetid marshes, hence the name mal•aria (bad air). In 1880, scientists discovered the real cause of malaria: a one-cell parasite called plasmodium. Later they discovered that the parasite is transmitted from person to person through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, which requires blood to nurture her eggs. (Nothing But Nets, Malaria No More)

Who is affected by Malaria?

Malaria occurs in nearly 100 countries worldwide, exacting a huge toll on human health and imposing a heavy social and economic burden in developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. There were an estimated 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths; 483,000 of those deaths were children under five years of age. That is 1300 children every day, or one child almost every minute. (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Health Organization)

What are the effects of Malaria?

In the human body, the parasites multiply in the liver, and then infect red blood cells. In terms of physical symptoms, even in relatively mild cases malaria can cause high fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia, which can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. Children who survive severe malaria can suffer lifelong mental disabilities. (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

The impact malaria has on these countries goes beyond the health of its people – it costs billions of dollars in treatment and lost productivity each year. The disease increases school and work absenteeism, decreases tourism, inhibits foreign investment, and affects crop production; this leads to decreased gross domestic product in countries with high disease rates. Over the long term, these economic losses add up, resulting in substantial differences in GDP between countries with and without malaria, particularly in Africa. This presents an enormous challenge to efforts to lift people out of poverty. (Nothing But Nets, World Health Organization)

Is there anything that can be done to combat Malaria?

Major gains have been made in controlling malaria in developing nations. In the past decade, malaria incidence has fallen by at least 50 percent in one-third of the countries where the disease is endemic. These gains have been made through a combination of interventions, including timely diagnosis and treatment using reliable tests and anti-malarial drugs; indoor spraying with safe insecticides; and the use of long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people from mosquito bites at night. Scientists and organizations around the world are working together to accelerate the development of a malaria vaccine and ensure its availability in the developing world. This is still in development but strides are being made to save each and every precious life. Out of these interventions, the best way to prevent malaria is the regular use of insecticide-treated bed nets.

As a result of a scale-up of malaria interventions, Malaria deaths have dropped by over 20% globally. 90%, or 3 million, of these lives saved are in the under-five age group, in sub-Saharan Africa. (WHO/ Gates Foundation, Progress Against Malaria: Winning the Fight Against a Deadly Disease, February 2009.)

What else must be done to put an end to the Malaria epidemic?

International payouts for malaria control rose from US$ 100 million in 2000 to US$ 1.94 billion in 2012 and US$ 1.97 billion in 2013. Unfortunately, the currently available funding is far below the resources required to attain universal coverage of interventions. An estimated US$ 5.1 billion is needed every year for this purpose. In 2012, the global total of international and domestic funding for malaria was US$ 2.5 billion – less than half of what is needed.

Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen 51% among children under the age of five. Help us expand access to existing tools and develop new ones to win this fight. What’s needed are further political will and resources to make it happen. (Beyond 5 Campaign by World Vision)

Why does SecondCommand choose to support Malaria prevention?

We want to be faithful followers of the word of God, and so we turn to the Bible to see how we should live. Micah 6:8 tells us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Jesus also tells us in Matthew 25:37-40 that whatever we do for the most lowly in our society, we also do for Him. By creating games that support organizations committed to ending Malaria, such as WorldVision, we believe that we are making a difference in the fight against Malaria. We are acting justly and loving mercy by eradicating the disease that plagues many of “the least of these.”

Malaria is an unjust disease. Although it was eradicated in the United States more than 60 years ago, malaria is still a leading cause of death for children around the world – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In these areas, malaria accounts for an estimated 25% of all childhood mortality below age five. Malaria affects primarily the poorest populations, who tend to live in malaria-prone areas and lack access to prevention and treatment tools. But this can all be changed! Love your neighbors by spreading the good news…Malaria can be prevented through effective use of bed netting and home pesticide sprays!