Will We Defeat Malaria?
Malaria has been killing off humans for almost all of recorded history, and we’ve finally got it cornered.
A young boy in Chang'ombe, a village in a malaria-endemic area of Tanzania. Image: Kaleigh Rogers/Motherboard
One thing that's hard to grasp in much of the developed world is how normal malaria is. This isn't to minimize the severity of this disease, it's just that for those who live in endemic regions, coming down with a bout of malaria is as commonplace as catching a cold is in the US, and most of the time, people get better. There were 214 million cases of malaria last year, and 99 percent recovered.
But unlike the common cold, malaria kills someone nearly once a minute. See, with hundreds of millions of cases, that means nearly half a million people still die every year from a disease that we've already successfully eliminated from much of the planet. We've made a lot of progress—fifteen years ago, twice as many people died from malaria each year—but there's still a long way to go, and plenty of roadblocks in the way.
The best way to understand all of this is to go to the places where malaria lives. In May, through a fellowship funded by the International Center for Journalists and Malaria No More, I travelled to Tanzania to see up close the challenges and realities of defeating this disease. I learned that we're closer than ever to a malaria-free future, but the home stretch will be the most arduous of all. Our best bet for a vaccine is only 50 percent effective. Our current defenses are under threat of failing due to resistance from the malaria parasite. And every effort we have may never be enough until socio-economic development reaches a critical level. But there is hope, commitment, and a hell of a lot of money backing this final push.
Malaria has been killing off humans for almost all of recorded history, and we've finally got it cornered. This is malaria's last stand.
Malaria's Last Stand is an expository look at the ongoing burden of one of humanity's oldest diseases. Staff writer Kaleigh Rogers travelled to Tanzania to capture the scope of malaria's impact on the road to elimination. Read more here.