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Malaria in Africa

At a Glance

  • Over the past decade, global malaria deaths have dropped by an estimated 38 percent. Ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have decreased malaria cases and deaths by more than 50 percent and averted approximately 1.1 million child deaths.
  • About half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria. Although malaria is a preventable and curable disease, and there has been much recent progress in its control, about 225 million people suffered from malaria and almost 800,000 died of the disease in 2009. Nearly 90 percent of these deaths occurred in Africa.
  • Children under age five are the most vulnerable to the disease and approximately one in every six child deaths (16 percent) in Africa is due to malaria. Controlling malaria is very important for progress towards many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa.
  • In addition to its health toll, malaria places a heavy economic burden on many affected countries, contributing to the cycle of poverty and limiting economic development. The disease is estimated to cost Africa about $12 billion per year in lost gross domestic product (GDP), slowing GDP growth by as much as 1.3 percent a year[i].
  • Malaria keeps households in poverty, discourages domestic and foreign investment and tourism, affects land-use patterns and crop selection, and reduces productivity through lost work days and diminished job performance. Deaths and disability from malaria have enormous social costs. Malaria also affects learning and scholastic achievement through frequent absenteeism and, in some cases, leads to cognitive impairment in children.

The Roll-Back Malaria Partnership

The Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership was launched in 1998 in response to country demand for assistance in scaling up new and cost-effective interventions for malaria control, particularly in Africa. These include long-lasting insecticidal nets, indoor residual spraying of insecticides, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria for pregnant women, diagnosis using microscopes/rapid diagnostic tests, and treatment with artemesinin-based combination therapies (ACTs).

With a more than tenfold increase in resources available for malaria control in the first decade of the 21st century, many countries in Africa reported between 40 and 80 percent household ownership of at least one insecticidal net[ii] by 2010. This is a dramatic increase from 2000, when only about 2 percent of households in Africa owned at least one such net.

What the World Bank is doing

The World Bank was a founding partner of the RBM Partnership, together with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the United Nations Development Program. In 2005, the Bank launched the Booster Program for Malaria Control in Africa as a 10-year effort to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals for child survival, maternal health, and malaria.

This has been a strong response to the epidemic in Africa, demonstrating the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s fund for the poorest, at its best: catalytic, flexible and collaborative. Working together with RBM partners, particularly the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, the United States President’s Malaria Initiative, and the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the Bank has helped countries scale up malaria control interventions while strengthening health systems.

Since 2005, the Bank has committed over $772.8 million to combating the disease through 22 projects across 20 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. This reflects a fifteen-fold increase compared with Bank spending on malaria control efforts between 2000 and 2005. Resources have also been leveraged from partners such as Exxon Mobil and the Russian Federation to strengthen monitoring and evaluation in some countries and to co-finance IDA projects in Zambia and Mozambique.


In particular, the Bank has financed over 73.8 million bed nets in Africa (significantly increasing bed net coverage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Benin, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, among others), 25.3 million doses of curative malaria drugs, and 12.3 million Rapid Diagnostic Tests.

Work on health systems has covered drug supply chains, information systems for monitoring and evaluation, and human resource management to ensure sustained control of malaria and to increase country capacity to address other health priorities.

In addition, the Bank is contributing to the malaria control knowledge base through rigorous impact evaluations. For example, a recent study in Zambia showed that simple improvements to the supply chain for essential medicines could save thousands of children from dying of malaria between now and 2015.

Contacts: Kavita Watsa, (202) 458-8810,
Aby Toure, (202) 473-8302,

Updated: March 2012

[i] Gallup and Sachs, 1998

[ii] Roll Back Malaria, Progress and Impact Series No. 7: "A Decade of Partnership and Results", September 2011

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