Malaria and Extreme Poverty

Malaria and poverty are intimately connected. Judged as both a root cause and a consequence of poverty, malaria is most intractable for the poorest countries in the world. Malaria affects the health and economic growth of nations and individuals alike and is costing Africa about $12 billion a year in economic output.

Annual economic growth in countries with high malaria transmission has historically been lower than in countries without malaria. Almost all the rich countries are outside the bounds of intensive malaria (check maps above). Studies show that malaria endemic countries in Africa have growth rates of up to 1.3% less than other countries that are not malaria endemic. For many countries in Africa this means negative growth rates.

Malaria has a greater impact on Africa's human resources than simple lost earnings. Although difficult to express in dollar terms, another indirect cost of malaria is the human pain and suffering caused by the disease. Malaria also hampers children's schooling and social development through both absenteeism and permanent neurological and other damage associated with severe episodes of the disease.

The simple presence of malaria in a community or country also hampers individual and national prosperity due to its influence on social and economic decisions. The risk of contracting malaria in endemic areas can deter investment and affect individual and household decision making in many ways that have a negative impact on economic productivity and growth.

Some examples of negative impact include

  • Preference by individual farmers/households to plant subsistence crops rather than more labor-intensive cash crops because of malaria's impact on labor during harvest season.
  • Undeveloped markets due to traders' unwillingness to travel to and invest in malaria endemic areas.
  • Undeveloped tourist industry due to reluctance of travelers to visit malaria-endemic areas.

Counting the costs

A lack of funding is a major barrier to curbing malaria in Africa. It is estimated that $2-3 billion is required per year to scale up malaria control programs throughout endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa. But only about $200 million is spent every year on malaria control in the continent by both African and donor governments and by UN agencies. In addition, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria has given around $220 million for malaria in Africa this year.

Other sources of increased funding include the World Bank's Booster Programme for Malaria Control, which amounts to between $500 million and $1 billion over the next five years, and the Bush Initiative on Malaria announced at the G8 Summit (July 2005) of $1.2 billion over five years for 15 countries.

We estimate that by 2008, 660 million people will be at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. With approximately one net needed for every two people, about 330 million nets will be needed. Using WHO data we can estimate that the cost for treatment will be about $875 million in 2005, increasing to around $938 million in 2008.