Increasing access to malaria interventions for adolescent girls is an important step toward malaria elimination

07 Oct 2021

Photo: Antje Mangelsdorf

From the turn of the millennium until 2015, the global health community has successfully reduced malaria-related deaths by 60 percent and decreased the likelihood of malaria infection among the 3.4 billion people at risk. However, since then, progress has stalled, and in 2019, malaria claimed the lives of approximately 409,000 people, 90 percent of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

As children under 5 years of age and pregnant women are the hardest hit by the disease, most efforts are targeted at protecting these groups. It has been widely reported that malaria still kills a young child every two minutes in SSA. However, less well-known is that, as of 2016, malaria was also the second major cause of death and ill health, after HIV/AIDS, in younger adolescent girls aged 10–14 in the region. Malaria was also the eighth cause of death and the fifth leading cause of ill health among all adolescent girls in SSA. Furthermore, while gains were made in global malaria control between 2012 and 2016, especially among children under the age of 5, little progress was made in reducing malaria-related deaths among adolescents. 

The protection of populations such as adolescents, and particularly girls, has been largely overlooked due to lack of age- and sex-disaggregated data. For instance, the most recent publicly available data on malaria-related death and ill health among adolescents is from 2016. 

ISGlobal, Medicines for Malaria Venture, and UNICEF are collaborating to raise awareness of the lack of evidence and information on the vulnerability of adolescent girls to malaria, as well as bring attention to the specific challenges adolescent girls face in accessing malaria protection and treatment interventions.

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