Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa

Malaria is still currently a major epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is reported that a child dies in Africa from Malaria every 60 seconds. Malaria is a disease that is spread to humans from the bite of a mosquito that is infected with the malaria parasite. This disease has been around for centuries and has a very low rate in the western world, but it is an infectious disease that still plagues the continent of Africa, in particular sub-Saharan countries. This disease has a major impact not only on those who are infected, but the communities, countries, and economies that surround the affected areas are also devastated by the spread of malaria. Current statistics state that 350-500 million people in Africa are infected every year by malaria and that 700,000 to a million people die each year from the disease. Of these deaths, one in five are children, and the children living with malaria are commonly suffering from anemia, which leads to poor growth and development. The economic factors surrounding malaria are quite obvious; it is a disease that primarily affects poor people, in poor communities, in mostly poor countries. This economic factor is an unfortunate circular cycle, malaria mainly affects the poor and those who suffer from malaria are unable to provide, so they remain poor and their children are therefore locked into poverty. There are also major world politics involved with combating malaria. NGO’s like UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and organizations like the Roll Back Malaria Partnership work with the local governments and invest billions of dollars into malaria prevention and treatment. One of the major campaigns that have shown some results is the deployment of millions of bug nets. Some of these nets are treated with insecticides and they are widely promoted for malaria prevention to stop mosquito bites. But, as what was mentioned in this week’s lecture, the campaign was not as successful as expected when it was first employed. There were cultural barriers, and the lack of communication between the NGO’s and the local communities led to improper, inconsistent, or complete lack of use of the bug nets in the local residents’ homes. But the campaign had increased in success, along with other prevention and treatment programs, and the occurrence of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa has been cut by 1/3 in the past decade. Although, this is a major win, malaria continued to infect and kill at an alarming rate. Right now there is a move to find a preventative vaccine, that is widely effective and safe for mass use. Hopefully, malaria will go the way of other once deadly diseases, like polio, and be almost non-existent with a simple vaccine.

Many anthropologists and social scientists are studying the varying factors and impacts of malaria. Some are studying the behavioral impacts that dealing with being infected with malaria have caused, others are more focused on the economic impact that malaria plays on sub-Saharan Africa. One article, by Wendy P. O’Meara, breaks down the individual burdens of malaria based on regions and specific countries in Africa. This study shows that while some countries have seen a marked improvement on the burden of malaria, not all countries have been so lucky; some have not seen the amount or intensity of the malaria burden improved in their countries at all. The trend, however, is toward improvement, and I think as long as malaria affects so many people, it will be a topic research and discussed by anthropologists for a long time to come.



1-      Williams, Holly A., and Caroline O.H. Jones. “A critical review of behavioral issues related to malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa: what contributions have social scientists made?.” Social Science and Medicine. 59. (2004): 501-523. (accessed August 10, 2012).

2-      Prudhhomme O’Meara, Wendy. “Changes in the burden of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.” Lancet on Infectious Disease. 3099. no. 10 (2010): 545-555. (accessed August 10, 2012).

3-      Chima, R.I., C.A. Goodman, and A. Mills. “The economic impact of malaria in Africa: a critical review of the evidence.” Health Policy. 63. (2003): 17-36. (accessed August 10, 2012).

4-      World Health Organization, “World Health Organization- Malaria.” Last modified June 2012. Accessed August 10, 2012.

5-      UNICEF, “UNICEF- Health- Malaria.” Last modified August 2, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2012.

6-      Roll Back Malaria Partnership, “Roll Back Malaria.” Last modified August 8, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2012.

1 thought on “Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The anthropologist’s theory most likely stated that while malaria overall has a large economic and social impact on the countries where a significant number of people are infected with it, how does the disease impact one country compared to another. The anthropologist then went and looked at each individual country’s economy and society, then determined how much malaria prevention and treatment costs each country per year and the major social impacts it has on each country’s population. Once the data collection was completed, she was able to compare the countries to each other and determine which counties faced a greater burden caused by malaria.

    The use of anthropology has probably provided a much better understanding of this health problem. First by helping determine statistical data such as 350-500 million people in Africa are infected every year, 700,000 to a million people die a year from the disease, and that one in five sufferers are children. Anthropology could have also played a role in determining the economic impact that the disease has not only the on countries with people infected, but on those infected with the disease themselves. Finally, as stated in the post and in this week’s lecture, anthropology could have been involved in determining why donated bug nets did not originally work and helped make the program more successful.

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