Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness.

Malaria: Key facts

  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable and curable.

  • In 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide.

  • The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 405 000 in 2018.

  • Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria; in 2018, they accounted for 67% (272 000) of all malaria deaths worldwide.

  • The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2018, the region was home to 93% of malaria cases and 94% of malaria deaths.

  • Total funding for malaria control and elimination reached an estimated US$ 2.7 billion in 2018. Contributions from governments of endemic countries amounted to US$ 900 million, representing 30% of total funding.

Symptoms of malaria include:

  • Fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness.

Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur. Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells. If not promptly treated, the infection can become severe and may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.

Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. The best available treatment, particularly for P. falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).

WHO recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatment. Results of parasitological confirmation can be available in 30 minutes or less. Treatment, solely on the basis of symptoms should only be considered when a parasitological diagnosis is not possible.

Improved surveillance for malaria cases and deaths helps ministries of health to determine which areas and/or population groups are most affected and enables countries to monitor changing disease patterns. Strong malaria surveillance systems also help countries design effective health interventions and evaluate the impact of their malaria control programmes.

Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. If coverage of vector control interventions within a specific area is high enough, then a measure of protection will be conferred across the community.

WHO recommends protection for all people at risk of malaria with effective malaria vector control. Two forms of vector control – insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying – are effective in a wide range of circumstances.

Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria. For travellers, malaria can be prevented through chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria disease. For pregnant women living in moderate-to-high transmission areas, WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester. Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations.

Malaria elimination is defined as the interruption of local transmission of a specified malaria parasite species in a defined geographical area as a result of deliberate activities. Continued measures are required to prevent re-establishment of transmission. Malaria eradication is defined as the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of malaria infection caused by human malaria parasites as a result of deliberate activities. Interventions are no longer required once eradication has been achieved.

Globally, the elimination net is widening, with more countries moving towards the goal of zero malaria. In 2018, 27 countries reported fewer than 100 indigenous cases of the disease, up from 17 countries in 2010.

Countries that have achieved at least 3 consecutive years of 0 indigenous cases of malaria are eligible to apply for the WHO certification of malaria elimination.

To learn more about Malaria Elimination visit


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