World Mosquito Day: What's the Buzz About?

World Mosquito Day: What's the Buzz About?

 {Photo credit: Todd Shapera.}A Rwandan mother and newborn rest under a bed net.Photo credit: Todd Shapera.

Over one hundred years ago on this date, (August 20, 1897), British scientist Sir Ronald Ross discovered that infected female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. (Like any vector borne disease, the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium, needs a specific host: in this case, the mosquito. The female mosquito needs blood to nourish her eggs; the male just eats nectar.) Dr. Ross received the Nobel Prize for his discovery that year. Today, we mark the day, August 20, as “World Mosquito Day.”

What’s all the buzz about?

A child in sub-Saharan Africa dies every minute as a result of malaria—more than 1,400 children globally every day. Malaria affects about 220 million people, with 80 percent of all cases occurring in just 17 countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 660,000 people died from the disease in 2010; most in Africa. Two countries—Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria—hold 40 percent of the burden of malaria mortality. Despite these challenges, progress is being made: since 2000, malaria mortality rates have dropped 33 percent in Africa, and 25 percent globally (more on malaria from WHO).

Working in global partnerships to end malaria

MSH has been fighting malaria for three decades, working with public and private partners to improve access to and use of quality health services, including essential medicines and commodities to fight malaria. Vector control is a key part of the global strategy for reducing malaria transmission in communities. MSH and partners are working in over 20 countries worldwide, across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Greater Mekong Region, and the Middle East. We work with national health systems and organizations to build their capacity to implement effective malaria control and prevention programs and with community health workers on integrated case management strategies.

In DRC, one of two countries with the greatest number of malaria deaths, USAID's Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), led by MSH, has distributed over 300,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), nearly 3 million doses of antimalarials (artemisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT), and more than 400,000 rapid-diagnostic tests (RDTs). The project also trained nearly 500 caregivers on standards of care for malaria prevention and treatment.

MSH supports USAID Benin's Accelerating Reductions in Malaria Morbidity and Mortality (ARM3) project, which has significantly improved access for much of the population to early malaria diagnostic and treatment services through the use of integrated community case management strategies, which combine malaria activities with diarrheal disease control and treatment of acute respiratory infections for children under five.  Malaria morbidity and mortality will decline in Benin as a result of these efforts.

So, what is all the buzz about?

As we mark World Mosquito Day, we remember the millions of people affected by malaria and the progress we’ve made in reducing transmission over the past decades. Despite this significant progress, malaria is still lurking, waiting to seize any opportunity to spring back, even in areas where we have controlled the disease. Vector control remains one of our main points of attack in the war against malaria, and new technological breakthroughs are needed to advance the fight to reduce malaria deaths. Our gains could be wiped out in a few years if we do not maintain our vigilance, invest in the future and integrated strategies, and support active malaria detection, prevention, and treatment interventions in both health facilities and communities.

More on MSH’s work on malaria and communicable diseases

Fred Hartman, MD, MPH, is global technical lead on malaria and communicable diseases at MSH.

Sara Holtz, DrPH, MPH, is a technical advisor at MSH.