Malaria is one of humanity’s biggest enemies. It now kills over 700 thousand people each year from the 293 million that it infects. Malaria came about at a time when it was thought that most disease was airborne an thus it got the name that comes from the Italian Mal’aria, which simply means “bad air”. Over the few first decades of the last century, it has claimed so many lives and proven so difficult to defeat that it became one of this century’s most important global missions as world powers and organizations put on an historic effort to eradicate the disease.
Although this global push has not yet completely eliminated the threat, it has achieved stellar promise and success. During the last 15 years, global deaths from Malaria have dropped a whoopping 60 percent. The most affected continent saw an even better improvement, as fatal cases in Africa decreased by over 66 percent. And for the first time in 2015, Europe reported zero Malaria and is increasingly being joined by other countries on that list.
The United Nations was one of the biggest motors of this medical uprising against the disease. In 2000, they had a meeting to tackle Malaria exclusively. Multiple nations and institutions drafted a plan and a set of objectives to be reached by the next decades.
Their most efficient guideline was actually one of the easiest and cheapest to apply: It instructed the raising of awareness in the most affected zones to the importance of bed netting and the treatment of these nets with insecticide. This helped to protect more than 50 percent of African households from the disease carrying mosquitos.
Along with chemoprevention which consists in giving young children malaria medicine and limiting mosquito populations with indoor insecticide spraying, more than 30 malaria vaccines are now in trial. The most promising one is about to be tested in Africa by next year and could prove to be the last step to defeating one of the heaviest health risks of this era.