By: Janna Oberdorf, Director of Communications and Outreach at Women Deliver
Today is World Malaria Day—and there is much to celebrate. Over the past decade, malaria cases have drastically declined and deaths from malaria have been reduced. As we celebrate the many successes of the past decade in fighting malaria around the world, it’s important to put a spotlight on those who are most vulnerable to malaria—pregnant women and their children.
There are about 25 million pregnant women in malaria-endemic areas of the world, but only a fraction of these women have access to effective interventions to prevent and control malaria. Although malaria is preventable, it is a major cause of maternal and newborn illness and death. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria infection is estimated to cause 400,000 cases of severe maternal anemia and 75,000–200,000 infant deaths annually. Maternal anemia contributes significantly to maternal mortality and causes an estimated 10,000 deaths per year.
The good news is that malaria can be prevented, reduced and managed with low-cost interventions.
Jhpiego, for example, is working to prevent malaria in pregnancy and manage the disease in women who become sick. Their comprehensive approach supports the World Health Organization (WHO)'s three-pronged approach, which includes:
- In areas of stable transmission, intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with an effective anti-malarial medication during routine antenatal care in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, at least one month apart
- In areas of stable and unstable transmission, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets
- In areas of unstable transmission, rapid treatment for pregnant women showing signs of malaria
Statistics show that women attending focused antenatal care have a much greater likelihood of remaining free of malaria and delivering a healthy baby. Programs, like the ones run by Jhpiego, show that integrating malaria in pregnancy services as part of routine antenatal care is an important, live-saving intervention.