Laboring under the burden of malaria

Today is Labor Day in the United States. This holiday was first celebrated in 1882 with a parade in New York. Many countries observe a similar holiday on May 1st.  Regardless of the date, we should always consider the impact of malaria on the labor force of endemic countries and the subsequent economic impact of the disease.

dscn9118sm.JPGFor example, in Vietnam, Morel and colleagues conclude that, “Whilst government provision of malaria treatment keeps the direct costs relatively low, the overall loss in income due to illness can still be significant given the poverty amongst this population, especially when multiple cases of malaria occur annually within the same household.” The article goes on to document the cost in terms of loss of household productive workdays.

In India, Kumar and colleagues documented that, “The maximum DALYs lost (53.25%) were in the middle productive ages from 15 to 44 years of age, followed by children < 14 years of age (27.68%), and 19% in those > 45 years of age.” They continue by describing efforts to calculate the economic burden of the disease over the past 75 years.

A study of Ethiopian farmers who reported a malaria-like illness “stayed in bed for a mean duration of 7.8 days. Suspected, in this rural population, is a cycle of malnutrition, disease, and activity restriction that begins in childhood. Needed are interventions that reduce the prevalence of childhood stunting and health services that provide adequate prevention and treatment of diseases such as malaria.”

There is hope for workers. O’Meara et al. report, “substantial, lasting declines linked to scale-up of specific interventions,” in southern African countries. Countries in the Horn of Africa have also, “experienced substantial decreases in the burden of malaria linked to the introduction of malaria control measures.” In other countries the switch to ACTs after chloroquine began to fail, “led to immediate improvements; in others malaria reduction seemed to be associated with the scale-up of insecticide-treated bednets and indoor residual spraying.”

Will elimination of malaria lift endemic countries out of poverty? To find out, we need to achieve universal coverage and maintain a high level of intervention.

(see updated Ghana Advocacy News)

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