Annals of DDT: 880,000 died from malaria in 2008

August 26, 2010

Once upon a time I easily found a chart from the World Health Organization (WHO) which provided a year-by-year tally of malaria deaths, worldwide, from the 1940s to the present.

Of course, now that I need that chart to note that malaria deaths are much lower today than they were when DDT was overused generally and sometimes misused in the fight against malaria, I can’t find it.  So, we’ll take the figures where we can find them.

In 2008, worldwide there were over 880,000 deaths from malaria.  This is significantly lower than the usual claim of “millions of deaths each year.”  We can find this figure in a document from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the organization that organizes the work of 182 nations to work for solutions to environmental problems, including fighting malaria, in a report on the 2009 meeting of the Stockholm Convention focused on fighting malaria,  “Countries move toward more sustainable ways to roll back malaria.”

However concern over DDT is matched by concern over the global malaria burden in which close to 250 million cases a year result in over 880 000 deaths. Thus any reduction in the use of DDT or other residual pesticides must ensure the level of transmission interruption is, at least, maintained.

Numbers here may be estimates not updated from current-year records.  The figure “over 880,000 deaths” looks and sounds awfully close to numbers reported in 2006, as you can see in this report from the Kaiser Family Foundation on U.S. global health policies:

Number of Annual Malaria Cases Worldwide Decreases, Disease Still Remains a Challenge, WHO’s World Malaria Report 2008 Says

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There were about 247 million malaria cases worldwide in 2006, according to the World Malaria Report 2008, which was released by the World Health Organization on Thursday, Reuters reports (MacInnis, Reuters, 9/18). According to the report, 3.3 billion people worldwide were at risk for malaria in 2006, and the disease remains a major burden among children younger than age five and in many African countries (AFP/, 9/18).

The report included reduced estimates of the global malaria burden that were calculated with new surveillance measures for non-African countries. The estimate of 247 million malaria cases is lower than the estimated 350 million to 500 million annual malaria cases reported in WHO’s World Malaria Report 2005. The new report estimated there were 881,000 malaria deaths in 2006, down from the previous estimate of one million deaths. The reduced figures are the result of new calculation methods, and it is unknown whether malaria cases and deaths actually declined from 2004 to 2006, WHO said (Reuters, 9/18). Although malaria control efforts have helped reduce the global malaria burden, most malaria-endemic countries are not meeting WHO targets for malaria control, the report said, noting that there is “no evidence yet to show that malaria elimination can be achieved and maintained in areas that currently have high transmission” (Bennett/Doherty, Bloomberg, 9/18).

WHO attributed the revised malaria estimates to new assessment measures in Asia, where data used for the 2005 report had not been updated for 40 years. According to Mac Otten — coordinator of surveillance, monitoring and evaluation at WHO’s Global Malaria Program — factors such as deforestation, urbanization and malaria control efforts have affected malaria estimates in Asia (Blue, Time, 9/17). Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam all reported a decline in malaria deaths in 2006 (Bloomberg, 9/18).

WHO’s surveillance methods in Africa, which estimate malaria prevalence by using climate data and sample surveys, have remained the same since the 2005 report, the report said (Reuters, 9/18). According to the report, 45 of the 109 malaria-endemic countries worldwide are in Africa, and more than half of the continent’s malaria cases in 2006 occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania (AFP/, 9/18). The report noted that malaria interventions have helped reduce malaria cases and deaths by more than 50% in Eritrea, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar (Time, 9/17).The report found that about 40% of people at risk for malaria in Africa had access to insecticide-treated nets last year, compared with 3% in 2001 (Bloomberg, 9/18). The report also found that the number of ITNs distributed to national malaria control programs was enough to cover 26% of people in 37 African countries but that most African countries did not meet WHO’s target of 80% coverage for the four main malaria treatments: ITNs, artemisinin-based combination therapies, indoor-insecticide spraying programs and treatment for pregnant women (AFP/, 9/18).

Note also that this total of 880,000 is more than the previously reported 863,000.  Hmmm.

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