Population Growth and Malaria Elimination

A major challenge in successful malaria control programming is correctly estimating the numbers of commodities needed and ensuring their timely delivery.  It is not clear the extent to which this forecasting process accounts for population growth.

Therefore, when the International Herald Tribune (IHT) reports on population growth in the region with the heaviest burden of malaria, we take notice … “What is most striking, though, is the unabated demographic swelling of Africa. Africa’s population has almost doubled between 1975 and 2000, growing from 416 to 811 million; it will add another 75 percent to reach 1.4 billion people in 2025, and presumably another 55 percent to reach the staggering figure of 2.2 billion by mid-century.”

pop3africabig.gifOne wonders whether successful efforts to reach 2015 targets of reduced malaria morbidity and mortality might offset the need for more and more LLINs, ACTs and other commodities? In some countries moving close to elimination, this might be true, but the high burden countries – high because of their large populations and challenging logistics – remain a concern. As the IHT observed, “countries such as Nigeria (230 million in 2025, 390 million in 2050); Ethiopia (110 million and 145 million) and Congo (95 million and 148 million) have since long been identified as the demographic giants of sub-Saharan Africa.”
We already know that universal coverage was not achieved by 31 December 2010 as many endemic countries are still sourcing and distributing nets and other commodities in the hopes of reaching the target in 2011. All the while, population does not remain static.

We also know that there has been strong competition for nets and drugs among endemic countries because of the low number of manufacturers of approved products.  A lesson from the field is that rapid diagnostic test supplies are not close to catching up with supplies of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) medicines, and long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) are not as long lasting as once thought.  Will we be able to get enough nets in 2013-14 to replace those distributed in 2010-11?

So in the short run as population increases, need for malaria control commodities will also increase.  And, one wonders can donor support be counted on?

Ironically even as fertility decreases (though is still high), population grows because of the success in disease control programs and reduced mortality. Also as UNFPA explains, the fact that the majority of people in developing countries are young means that the bulk of the population still has many years of reproductive life ahead, hence population in the foreseeable future will increase even if fertility of lower.
Of course, even when people survive malaria episodes they experience personal costs that holds back the national economy.  The question is whether we can get enough malaria commodities on the scene and in people’s hands before population doubles?

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