Malaria & Poverty : a vicious cycle

Malaria is one of the most important challenges to global public health and is often referred as the epidemic of the poor. Whilst the disease is in large part determined by climate and ecology, and not to poverty per se, the impact of malaria takes its toll on the poorest. Recent studies estimate that the disease costs Africa $US 12 billion in lost Gross Domestic Product. Countries with high malaria transmission have historically had lower economic growth than in countries without malaria.  Their economy growth slows by 1.3% per year as a result of lost life and low productivity.

The direct cost includes high public expenditure to attempt to maintain health facilities and infrastructures, manage effective malaria control campaigns and provide public education. Malaria costs are also widely felt as workers productivity lowers with increased sick leave, absenteeism and premature mortality of the workforce. The disease is as much burdensome for families and households. According to the European Alliance Against Malaria “The permanent neurological and physical damages caused by severe episodes of the disease hamper children’s schooling and their general well-being. They can directly affect their education and ability to learn in later life.”

Malaria and poverty constitute a vicious cycle. These two plagues need to be tackled together. Social and economic conditions need to be addressed while malaria control should be seen as a poverty reduction strategy.

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