Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

World Malaria Day

25 April 2008

25 April 2008 will be the first World Malaria Day, a day of unified commemoration of the global effort to effectively control malaria around the world. In cooperation with the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, the Department of Making Pregnancy Safer marks this day with a lunchtime seminar on the promotion of malaria prevention and control in schools. Combating malaria is an important approach to improve maternal and newborn health.

Pregnant women are the major adult risk group for malaria in most endemic areas of the world. Each year, there are about 50 million pregnancies in malaria-endemic countries. Getting infected with malaria poses a high risk to the health and life of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Infected mothers-to-be are not only likely to suffer from severe anaemia, but may also die from complications of malaria. Besides, malaria can cause spontaneous abortion, premature delivery or stillbirth and is responsible for about one third of preventable low-birth-weight babies.

Despite considerable progress in malaria control over the past decade, malaria in pregnancy remains a serious public health problem, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where about 90% of clinical cases recorded worldwide occur. Indeed, malaria in pregnancy has become the leading indirect cause of maternal mortality in Africa, accounting for an estimated 10 000 maternal deaths every year. Besides, each year 200 000 infants die as a result of malaria infection during pregnancy.

Malaria prevention and control during pregnancy follows a three-pronged approach: 1) distribution of insecticide-treated nets, 2) case management of malaria illness in areas of unstable malaria transmission, and 3) intermittent preventive treatment in regions with a stable malaria transmission. To reach a high coverage, these interventions should be integrated in antenatal services. In fact, in most African countries over 70% of pregnant women make multiple visits to antenatal care clinics.

World Malaria Day is an opportunity to learn more about the devastating consequences of the disease and about evidence-based interventions to control it. For more information about activities during that day, please visit the web site of World Malaria Day.

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