The upcoming annual World Malaria Day on the 25th of April is one of the most visible international activities to tackle the problem of a disease that today is mainly a problem on the African continent. Beyond that day, activists from public sector as well as from many private organisations have regular meetings to find solutions for a disease that UNICEF describes as both preventable and curable.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease, and the provision of mosquito nets treated with insecticides is seen as one cost-effective method of prevention. As explained on Wikipedia, longer lasting insecticide nets (LLIN) have now replaced [Insecticide Treated Nets] in most countries, although they also need regular replacement for the insecticide to remain effective. The Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP) is one of the groups campaigning for the use of LLINs: “Since 2002, mosquito net campaigns in Africa have delivered tens of millions of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) under the leadership of African Ministries of Health and National Malaria Control Programs“.
In collaboration with Milliner Global Associates of the AMP core group I produced a cartogram series for AMPs February meeting in Geneva. The map series aims to highlight the problem of Malaria in Africa and show how LLIN deliveries contribute to the protection of the population at risk. The data shown in the following six maps were compiled by John Milliner (complemented by UN population statistics). The first two maps put Africa and its population distribution into perspective to help reading the subsequent cartogram transformations:
Keeping the shape of Africa based on population in mind, the risk of malaria can be identified as predominantly a sub-Saharan problem, as the following map shows. That also explains the total number of LLIN deliveries in the period 2010-12, which has a similar overall distribution, although there are some differences between these two maps – not only in their total numbers that are shown below the maps:
A simple calculation can now help to find out where LLINs may help to fight malaria. When using the figure of 1.8 persons per mosquito net, then the population at risk to malaria can be calculated against the LLIN deliveries to find out the net number of people who are not protected by these deliveries. The following map shows the population at risk of malaria without LLIN deliveries from 2010 to 2012 based on these calculations:
These maps are likely to change significantly in 2013 as old nets (delivered in 2010) will no longer be useful and new nets are delivered. They show one aspect of attempts to tackle one aspect of global inequalities in health, where poorest are hit hardest by a problem that would not need to exist anymore. Malaria is preventable…